Peyton Siva

Peyton Siva delivers, Louisville advances to Big East final

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NEW YORK, N.Y.– Peyton Siva’s play down the stretch last season was one of the major reasons Louisville made a run to the Final Four in New Orleans. His run of strong outings began in the 2012 Big East. After No. 4 Louisville’s win Friday night over Notre Dame, we have to ask ourselves if we’re seeing the same thing happen again.

Siva had 12 points, seven steals, and six assists while turning the ball over just two times in Louisville’s 69-57 win over the Irish in the Big East tournament semifinals at Madison Square Garden. The win eliminates Notre Dame and sends Louisville on to face Syracuse for the conference championship and an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.

Siva’s steal and layup with 6:05 to play pushed the lead to nine points, 50-41, and spelled the beginning of the end for Notre Dame. If he didn’t make a steal, he was integral to Louisville’s ability to defend against the strong Notre Dame backcourt of Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant.

“We were out of place a couple times and Peyton Siva just kept bailing us out with one rotation after another,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “He’s just an incredible player. I sometimes just don’t give him too much of a break because I have so much confidence in him in every phase of the game.”

Siva became the all-time leader in steals at Louisville Friday evening and Pitino compared him to another notable guard that he has coached.

“The two greatest people I’ve ever coached in my life were Billy Donovan and Peyton Siva, just as people,” Pitino said. “Then you match the fact that they were both great point guards. I’ve been very very lucky…”

Siva was half of the backcourt that will likely decide how far Louisville goes this March. Russ Smith complemented Siva with 20 points and six assists. If those two play at this level throughout March, it is not out of the question that Louisville could go on another postseason. A strong backcourt, plus the increased versatility of shot-blocking center Gorgui Dieng, and the Cardinals are in business.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

VIDEO: Duke’s Grayson Allen beats No. 7 Virginia at the buzzer

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia sparks come-from-behind win over No. 13 Louisville

Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia (32) goes up for a shot over Boston College’s Idy Diallo (4) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
(AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
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Demetrius Jackson scored 20 of his 25 points in the first half and Steve Vasturia scored 15 of his 20 points in the final 20 minutes as Notre Dame landed a 71-66 win over No. 13 Louisville on Saturday afternoon.

The Fighting Irish trailed by as many as 11 points early in the second half, but Vasturia’s hot shooting combined with Notre Dame holding Louisville to just 15 points in the final 15 minutes made all the difference.

The Fighting Irish are not as good as they were last season, but they are built in a similar mold. Jackson, as we expected, as become one of the nation’s most dynamic point guards, impossible to slow-down in isolation and ball-screen actions. Steve Vasturia emerging as a legitimate secondary option offensively and Zach Auguste is one of the nation’s most underrated big men and one of the most dangerous as the roll-man in ball-screens.

Combine all of that with a handful of shooters creating space and Bonzie Colson’s emergence as a force on the offensive glass, and Mike Brey once again has one of the nation’s most lethal offensive attacks.

Where they struggle is on the defensive end of the floor, which is what makes the end of Saturday’s win so meaningful. The Irish entered the day ranked 232nd in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, which more or less means they’re as good as a bad mid-major program at keeping their opponents from scoring.

But they don’t have to be great to be able to win games.

They have to be good enough and they have to get important stops.

That’s precisely what happened on Saturday.

Whether or not that actually becomes a trend for this group will be something to monitor — it happened for Duke during last year’s NCAA tournament — but the bottom-line is this: Notre Dame does something better than just about anyone else in college basketball, and that’s score the ball.

On the nights they are able to gets some stops, they are going to be able to win some games. In the last eight days, they’ve proven that, beating North Carolina, Clemson on the road and Louisville.

And that makes them dangerous in March.