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Originally published March 30, 2012 at 9:34 PM | Page modified March 30, 2012 at 11:01 PM

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Kentucky-Louisville could be battle of big men | NCAA Final Four

The Louisville-Kentucky rivalry is the plot within the plot that is the NCAA Final Four. That's not the only subplot, though. Take, for example, the...

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NEW ORLEANS — The Louisville-Kentucky rivalry is the plot within the plot that is the NCAA Final Four.

That's not the only subplot, though.

Take, for example, the clash between the big fellas — Louisville's 6-foot-11 Gorgui Dieng and Kentucky's 6-10 Anthony Davis.

Dieng, the seventh of eight children, is from Kebemer, Senegal.

"He's a great shot-blocker," Davis said. "Great timing. Moves his feet quick."

Dieng finished first in the Big East Conference and is eighth in the NCAA with 3.2 blocks a game. His 124 blocks are a Louisville season record.

"I could care less about breaking that record," Dieng said after Friday's practice in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. "I care more about winning tomorrow, and the next game on Monday."

Davis, who has a twin sister and an older sister, is from Chicago.

He led the Southeastern Conference and is second in the NCAA with 4.6 blocks a game. His 175 swats are more than double the previous UK season record, fifth on the career chart, He is within seven of the NCAA freshman record.

"I think that Anthony Davis is one of the best shot-blockers we've ever seen," said Richard Pitino, son of and assistant to Louisville coach Rick Pitino. "Gorgui's not quite as advanced as he is. He's a little longer — his arms are a little longer than Gorgui's. But Gorgui's become a very good shot-blocker in his own right."

Here, the prolific shot-blockers have been barraged by questions about their matchup Saturday.

"It's Louisville against Kentucky," Dieng said. "So we're going to play as a team and try to get everybody playing at every position. It's not like (it's about) me or Anthony."

A sophomore, Dieng averages 9.2 points and 9.0 rebounds, shooting 53.4 percent from the field.

"I would say as of right now, Anthony Davis, he should be worried about Gorgui Dieng, really," said Cardinals guard Chris Smith. "For us as a team, we're going to try to stop (Davis) cold, really, not feed into his shot-blocking. We've got to get him in foul trouble, and that will pretty much give us the game."

Dieng attributes his shot-blocking ability to timing and added strength.

"People are going to come challenge me, so I can block the shot," he said. "If I'm strong enough, I can take the heat and block the shot."

Davis' uncanny ability to block shots has been linked to his rapid growth spurt. As a freshman, he stood 6-2. As a junior, he was 6-5. Then 6-7. Now 6-10.

"His timing" is what makes Davis special, according to Louisville's Russ Smith. "Because he was a guard himself. So you'll go in there and try to do these little guard tricks like stop-and-go or pump fake or a little spin move — just all the guard tricks — and he knows what you're going to do because he was a guard himself."

Come Saturday night, either Davis or Dieng will be king of the block.


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