Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Louisville's Siva saves his best for postseason

March 21, 2012

Sweet 16 Preview: Louisville - Michigan St.

Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE<.i>
10 TO WATCH: Louisville's Peyton Siva is just one of many marquee talents on display this weekend at the West Regional. VIEW GALLERY >>
PHOENIX — Arizona sports fans will finally get a chance to see Peyton play this weekend for the Cardinals.

No, not that Peyton. And not those Cardinals. We’re talking about Louisville point guard Peyton Siva.

While the NFL's Peyton snubbed the Arizona Cardinals in favor of Denver, the college basketball version is in the perfect place to take his game to the next level. In fact, Louisville Cardinals coach Rick Pitino thought the very same thing when he suggested about a month ago that Siva watch film of Phoenix Suns point guard and two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash to help overcome a bad case of turnovers.

“One of the reasons why Peyton was struggling is he's so fast. He plays at one pace,” Pitino said Wednesday at US Airways Center, home of the Suns. “I wanted him to start to change his pace, and also, if he didn't have anything, continue dribbling out in a circle and take another opportunity.

“Nobody does that better than Steve Nash. Any time you show (a college player) a
great basketball player, they love to emulate that.”

Turns out, Siva didn’t need too much prodding.

“Growing up, he was one of my favorite players to watch anyway,” Siva said. “I watched over a hundred clips of Steve Nash moving around the court. It really helped me out by not forcing things and getting in trouble or making jump error passes. And it really helped me out probing the court, giving other guys open looks, and seeing the whole court a little better.”

Siva also had a little prodding from his teammates. When talk turned to Nash in the Louisville locker room Wednesday, teammate Kyle Kuric quipped: “Maybe you should watch some shooting clips, too.”

Siva's numbers early this season were anything but expected after a breakout sophomore season in which he averaged 9.9 points, 5.2 assists and shot almost 45 percent from the floor.

That performance had some mentioning Siva in the national player of the year conversation, but he shot just 26 of 77 in the team’s first 10 games (33.8 percent) this season, posting three games without a field goal while turning the ball over 37 times.

Siva insists the preseason expectations had nothing to do with his struggles — they were more a product of a concussion suffered in late October and a combined ankle injury and bone bruise suffered in late November that limited him for more than eight weeks.

“I tried to come back and play on it, and it kind of hindered me from moving around on the court and being able to jump off of it,” Siva said. “It's just now been getting healthier, I'm able to move a lot better now, and I'm able to run a lot faster.”

The proof is in the performance. During Louisville’s current six-game winning streak, including their sweep of the Big East tournament, Siva is averaging 13 points a game on nearly 48 percent shooting with 5.7 assists per game. Just as important, he’s breaking down defenses with his lethal penetration abilities.

When asked how his team might keep Siva out of the lane in Thursday’s Sweet 16 matchup, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo feigned throwing in the towel.

“Change the NCAA rules? Let us play with six guys, maybe?” he said. “Siva is out of control, in control. He's a unique guard. He can spin dribble, he can do all the things that sometimes you tell your guys not to do in traffic, and he does it very well.”

Unfortunately for Pitino, Siva is still turning the ball over more than three times a game, but Louisville’s coach still sees progress.

“He's definitely turned the corner because he's very talented,” Pitino said. “I still think he's one of the premier point guards in college basketball, and he's playing at the right time.

“Sometimes you can have a great regular season, and you play terribly in the postseason. Nobody is going to remember that great regular season.”

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