Louisville has had a problem with consistency in the last month, but with just a few weeks left to secure a top-four seed in the Big East tournament, coach Rick Pitino feels his team has finally gotten back on track.
Coming off an impressive win, the 16th-ranked Cardinals will try to snap a three-game road losing streak Tuesday night against Rutgers.
Louisville (20-7, 9-5) is looking to build on a 71-58 win over then-No. 13 Connecticut on Friday. The Cardinals bounced back after a 63-54 loss at Cincinnati two nights earlier, holding the Huskies to 37.0 percent shooting and Kemba Walker to 16 points.
Peyton Siva scored 15 points and 6-foot-10 freshman Gorgui Dieng recorded his first double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds in his second game back after missing five with a concussion suffered Jan. 26.
Dieng’s concussion was just one injury that has forced Pitino to adjust his lineup over the last month. Rakeem Buckles has also missed time with a broken index finger and leading scorer Preston Knowles missed a game earlier this month with a hamstring injury.
With his team healthy, coming off a win over a ranked opponent and facing a favorable schedule, Pitino feels good about the final weeks of the regular season.
“We have certainly more weapons that we can go to if we need to make changes,” he said Monday. “Whether it’s pressing or coming from behind or being up.”
Louisville hasn’t won back-to-back games since Jan. 26-29. However, after playing five of their last seven against ranked teams, the Cardinals will face only one squad currently in the Top 25 over their final four games.
They are trying to earn a top-four seed for the conference tournament, which earns them a double-bye.
Louisville won’t be overlooking its next opponent despite its record.
Rutgers (13-13, 4-10) is 10-4 at home with a victory over then-No. 9 Villanova on Feb. 9. The Scarlet Knights have held three of their last four visitors to fewer than 70 points.
“I see the fight,” coach Mike Rice said. “I see the heart and the toughness everyday in this team.”
Rutgers has lost six of seven, including its last two by a combined nine points. The Scarlet Knights fell 84-80 in overtime at Syracuse on Saturday, getting outscored 34-9 at the free-throw line.
“When I look at the film, I’m sure that I’ll see a lot of blockouts and a lot of calls I’ll scratch my head at,” Rice said. “We have to do a better job. Any time they seemed to get the ball underneath, it was a foul.”
Mike Colburn scored 18 points and Gilvydas Biruta added 12 points and eight rebounds as the Scarlet Knights dropped another close one. Their 10 conference losses have been by an average of 8.4 points.
Leading scorer Jonathan Mitchell scored 13 points on 6-of-17 shooting Saturday after averaging 23.5 and making 61.4 percent of his attempts in the previous four games.
Louisville has won four straight over Rutgers by an average of 21.8 points and leads the all-time series 8-1.