The Louisville Cardinals found themselves at number one in the nation two weeks ago, but after a pair of two-point losses to Syracuse and Georgetown and a 73-64 loss at Villanova, the Cardinals were reeling and needing a win for confidence and to basically get the team back in line to win the Big East regular season.
Cards coach Rick PItino recognizes the impact of Peyton Siva’s “warrior” mentality. Courtesy Louisville Athletics.
Louisville shot 46% Monday night in beating Pitt 64-61 as a string of three 40% or below shooting performances came to a close. The addition of Russ Smith back into the starting lineup may have had an effect as well. He was a threat early making his first three shots and jump stating the Cardinals to a 27-16 lead in the first half. However, Cards point guard Peyton Siva bounced back off a scoreless effort vs. Georgetown as he controlled the floor and put the Cardinals in position to score and execute offensively in the clutch.
“He got knocked down quite a bit,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino of Pittsburgh’s continuous physicality on both ends, “He takes his lumps and goes back out. If you measure Peyton by his stat sheet, you know he has the ball in his hands all the time. Davidson said that Louisville’s defense is really, really, good, but that’s not what wears us out. It’s all the pick and rolls we have to guard.”
Siva was 1-of-7 from the floor in the full 40 minutes as the Louisville rotation was shortened due to an injury to Wayne Blackshear and an indefinite suspension imposed on guard Kevin Ware. The shooting numbers were not an entity. His 10 assists and relentless defense in making the Pitt perimeter work extra hard was of the utmost value. Siva once again proved his mantra in other ways than in the points category.
“Do you know how hard it is to keep running pick and rolls back and forth?” questioned Pitino, “They’re bumping you and they’re after you and, ‘Run it again!’ I’m yelling, ‘Run it again!’ The poor kid doesn’t get a break, soyou have to be in tremendous physical shape to do what he does.”
Pitino has had to indoctrinate Siva into various methods of screen-roll play to take some of the pressure off of him on offense in the last few games. Pitino noted that when Siva comes off the screen that he has to trust the corner man in the Louisville scheme and get the ball to him if he doesn’t have the driving lane. This has been a major adjustment for Louisville in trying to relieve the pressure on Siva as Big East opponents have come hard after him every night.
“They blitz and sometimes the other teams will ‘string,’ where they play back and step up as he comes off, and that’s where lack of size hurts you,” Pitino explained, “They take the corner man and they shut down the inside and they help. So we’ve been working on that as well. This was a great win for us. We need it.”
In addition to the relentless play of Siva and the improvement of the offense in making buckets, Pitino reiterated that Louisville’s rebounding on both ends continues to be a must as they were outrebounded by two after being outrebounded by a collective 10 in the three losses.
“What we tried to talk about going into this game is, ‘Look, guys. We may be a running finesse team, but the Big East is not going to change our style with half the league to accommodate our running game, so we’ve got to be ready to battle it out on the backboard,’ and one of the reasons why we’re not rebounding well – now, our bigs didn’t do a good job of blocking out tonight – but because our guards are so small and we’re pressuring the 3, they don’t come back to rebound,” analyzed Pitino.
- Ken Cross
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