Sunday, March 18, 2012

Siva Rights the Cardinals’ Ship

Published: March 18, 2012
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PORTLAND, Ore. — As New Mexico mounted a late comeback, Louisville turned to the player who revived its championship hopes over the past month. Sure, guard Peyton Siva produced relatively ordinary statistics Saturday, but he also calmed the Cardinals and quelled the comeback.
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Don Ryan/Associated Press

Peyton Siva finished with 6 points and 6 assists for Louisville in the victory against New Mexico.

The shift took place late in the second half, with the Lobos (28-7), seeded fifth in the West Region, surging against the Cardinals, seeded fourth. Already, Siva had slowed the pace, taken control. He stood near midcourt, bouncing the ball, then surged toward the basket, creating a lane for center Gorgui Dieng, who took a pass and slammed home a dunk.

That effectively ended the Lobos’ season, as Louisville (28-9) held on for a 59-56 victory at the Rose Garden. The win marked the Cardinals’ sixth-consecutive triumph, dating to their final regular-season game, continuing through the Big East tournament and now through two rounds here. Louisville will play the winner of Michigan State-St. Louis this week in Phoenix.

Siva finished with 6 points and 6 assists, statistics that failed to fully describe his impact. Russ Smith chipped in 17 points off the bench.

Louisville broke the game open early in the second half behind its signature pressure defense. Siva grabbed a loose ball, sprinted toward the basket, then fired a behind-the-back pass to Kyle Kuric, who laid it in. Immediately after that, guard Russ Smith stole the ball and scored. The Cardinals led, 40-29. New Mexico, though, would come back, although only part of the way.

The teams played each other to a near standstill in the first half. Louisville shot slightly better and rebounded slightly better, but New Mexico guard Kendall Williams continued a strong tournament with 8 points. Louisville led at halftime, 26-25.

The game paused for several minutes when Lobos forward Drew Gordon, the U.C.L.A. transfer and New Mexico’s best player, lay on the ground, clutching his left knee. Gordon later returned from the locker room and tapped Coach Steve Alford on the shoulder. No words were needed. He wanted back in, injury or not.

Gordon finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds in his final collegiate game. Louisville instead moved on.

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