WASHINGTON DC – Rick Pitino has said it time and time again: Louisville does not have a star this season.
Its tough to argue against.
Part of the reason that the Cardinals were picked eighth in the Big East in the preseason is that this is a roster that isn’t loaded with talent. There aren’t any lottery picks donning Louisville colors this season. Despite that — and despite Louisville playing the entire year without Jared Swopshire and most of the Big East season thus far without Raheem Buckles — the Cardinals came into tonight’s game against Georgetown all alone in second place in the Big East.
Because Louisville has been as good as any team in the country when it comes to come backs. They were down 18 to Marquette with 5:45 left in the game and won. They were down 11 points to West Virginia and nine points to UConn in the second half and won. And tonight, they trailed the Hoyas 43-32 in the second half and eventually took a 55-53 lead before falling 62-59.
Louisville has what Jay Bilas would call spurtability. The Cardinals are a pressing team, but in order for them to effectively get into their press, they need to score. Since they thrive on easy shots they are able to get when their press forces turnovers, it doesn’t take Bilas to figure out that Louisville is much more likely to score coming off of a made basket. Throw in the Cardinal’s reliance on the three, and its pretty obvious why this team is capable of making a big run late in games.
As a result, Louisville has been involved in — and will likely continue to be involved in — a number of close games.
And if we have learned anything from the past three games, its that the ball is going to be in Peyton Siva’s hands down the stretch.
What Rick Pitino wants his team to do if they are unable to get a good look early in the shot clock is to pull the ball out and run Siva off of a high ball screen. He spreads the floor with three shooters and creates an opportunity for someone to go one-on-one in space in the center of the court. If its not Siva coming off of the screen, its Terrence Jennings rolling to the basket with a defender on his back. If the opposing defenses collapses, it creates kick out opportunities for Louisville’s shooters.
Against both West Virginia and UConn, Siva made all the plays down the stretch. He had the game winner against West Virginia and forced both overtimes against UConn. But against Georgetown, the Hoyas were able to make an adjustmentin the second half. Namely, they used Julian Vaughn to hedge the screen softly, essentially doing nothing more than keeping Siva from getting a free run at the hoop, while Siva’s defender recovers.
It worked. Siva only scored one on the pick-and-roll down the stretch — drawing a foul on Vaughn with less than a minute left — and Georgetown got the stops they needed to win.
Louisville may not have a star, but they certainly have a most important player and a guy that they look to give the ball to down the stretch.
And that is Peyton Siva.