Peyton Silva

Peyton Siva is Louisville’s difference-maker, even when he stuggles

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Midway through January, the discussion wasn’t whether or not Louisville had a chance to make the Sweet 16. The potential for a tournament run was secondary for a team that many thought could miss the NCAA tournament. Losing by 29 to Providence isn’t exactly the way to inspire confidence.

But the Cardinals turned things around dramatically, getting healthy and making a run through the Big East tournament before once again becoming a trendy upset pick as a four seed in the NCAA tournament.

With a 59-56 win over New Mexico on Saturday night, I think it is finally safe to say that Louisville has proved its doubters wrong as they are now headed for the Sweet 16 and a date with Michigan State.

The leading scorer on Saturday was the always-entertaining Russ Smith, who finished with 17 points, but the Cardinals best player on this night was probably Gorgui Dieng, the center that finished with 10 boards, three blocks and two steals. Louisville is a better team when those two are playing that way.

The most important player, however, was Peyton Siva. Coming into this game, Siva was playing some of the best basketball of his career. In the last five games, he had averaged 14.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 6.3 apg and 2.6 spg. Against New Mexico, Siva wasn’t great. He finished with just six points and five assists, but he was the guy with the ball in his hands down the stretch, and he came up huge for Rick Pitino’s club.

After New Mexico had cut a 15 point lead to three, it was Siva that found Chane Behanan for a layup to push the lead back to five. Two possessions later, Siva split the defense for a tough layup over one of New Mexico’s big men. After the Lobos had worked the lead back to two points with a minute left, it was Siva coming off of a ball-screen and finding Gorgui Dieng for a dunk that pushed the lead to four. New Mexico never threatened again.

When Siva plays like this, he makes Louisville a different basketball team.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
Associated Press
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.