Diakite's continued emergence helps UVA reach Sweet 16

COLUMBIA, S.C. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Virginia's Mamadi Diakite says he's trying to let his play do the talking this postseason.

“I’ve been saying this since day one, but I’ve been talking too much," Diakite said. "I think it was time to go, time to prove with my actions that I wanted to help. And that’s what I’m doing now.”

Diakite's latest statement came in UVA's 63-51 win against Oklahoma on Sunday night that clinched a Sweet 16 spot for the Cavaliers, the No. 1 seed in the South Region. Diakite led the Wahoos 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting, and also finished with nine rebounds and three blocks.

“He was keeping balls alive on the glass. He was hustling. He was doing the things he needed to do on defense," said UVA sophomore guard De'Andre Hunter. "And I feel like when he plays well on defense, he plays a lot better on offense.”

“He was huge, making decisions off the pick-and-roll, finishing, rebounding and playing individual post defense," said UVA senior center Jack Salt. "He played an amazing game.”

Diakite's now in his fourth season with the UVA men's basketball program. It's been a long wait for the Wahoos to see his potential translate into consistent production. A native of Guinea and a graduate of the Blue Ridge School, Diakite described that process as tough, both on and off the court.

“My speaking wasn’t great at all. My understanding wasn’t there, Diakite admitted in the locker room following Sunday's win. "I learned English, that was one step. But I also learned a lot of valuable things that the coaches taught us, and that finally made me able to understand everything.”

“He does a lot of stuff he wasn’t able to do last year. Blowing up ball screens, scrambling," said UVA junior guard Ty Jerome. "Last year he wasn’t as continuous, and he was only playing in little spurts. This year he’s becoming a real complete player.”

“We see it in practice all the time, but it’s actually translating into the game," said Hunter. "I’m just really happy for him because he works really hard, and people don’t see all those things he does in practice.”

Now people are getting to see Diakite contribute in the biggest games in his career. He had 17 points and nine rebounds in UVA's come-from-behind win against Gardner-Webb in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. For the season, his 7.4 points and 4.0 rebounds in 20.3 minutes per game are all career highs.

And Diakite hopes to quietly keep helping the Cavaliers as the stage keeps getting bigger. UVA will face No. 12 seed Oregon on Thursday in Louisville in the Sweet 16.

“My job is to help the team get to the final," Diakite said. "And I think we’re going to get there, and hopefully win it.”



 
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