CRAWFORD | Struggles aside, Siva is still the key to the Cardina - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Struggles aside, Siva is still the key to the Cardinals

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WDRB) -- When Peyton Siva walked out onto the Verizon Center Court for the first time before Saturday's game at Georgetown, he looked up at the scoreboard and noticed his name had been misspelled.

His name line, followed by fouls and points, read, "Silva, 0, 0." The University of Louisville point guard said something to sports information director Kenny Klein. Before tipoff, scorers changed the spelling of Siva's name. They never did, however, have to change the "0" in his scoring column. For the first time since his freshman season, Siva went scoreless.

After his 15-footer came up short in the closing seconds of a third straight loss, 53-51, at Georgetown, the questions came in a somber locker room, but he had little more than one-word answers.

Siva knows what is coming next. Fans have been on and off of Siva like a carousel pony during his U of L career. Or, maybe the more appropriate ride is roller coaster.

There are plenty of storylines on what is now a three-game losing streak, and on Saturday's paltry offensive output, but you can boil much of it down to this one player -- less in assigning fault than in assessing value.

When Siva was making outside shots, the U of L offense was a different animal.

That's a heavy load to hang on one guy. But it is testament to what Siva means to this team, to its emotional cohesiveness and confidence. And it means one other thing.

More than any player on this team, Siva is good at making those around him better. When his game is off, or when he puts himself on the bench with foul trouble, it takes exponentially away from the whole.

That certainly was the case on Saturday. Siva picked up two fouls early in the first half and sat the rest of the period. He picked up two in quick succession in the second, one on a slap down of a ball he had no hope of stealing with his back nearly to the ballhandler.

For one of the smartest kids I've ever coached, he just does the dumbest things I've ever seen," Pitino said. " . . . He's just so aggressive that he (fouls too much). But he's an awesome young man. We've just got to get him doing good things."

Still, Siva played a central role in the game's outcome.

The headlines will be about his final miss -- one of only two shots he took on the day. With U of L trailing 52-51, Pitino stationed Siva on the dribble near him on the sideline and drained about 20 seconds off the clock coming out of a timeout with no timeouts remaining.

With about seven seconds left he told Siva to go. Siva dribbled around a high ball screen by Gorgui Dieng, pulled up, went up for a 15-foot jumper drifting back slightly, and left it short. Georgetown rebounded and escaped with a victory after Russ Smith's three-quarter court shot bounced off the backboard.

Before the postgame handshakes were finished, national media took to Twitter to criticize Pitino's game management in the closing minutes. U of L fans at home were even more indignant.

Pitino, after the game, acknowledged it was an unusual strategy.

"I wish I had a timeout in that situation," Pitino said. "It was our possession (on the arrow when Chane Behanan called timeout before being tied up with 30 seconds to play). It was a bad timeout for us, but players are just trying to keep possession. I really, playing on the road, 90 percent I'll probably go for the win at that point. It's tough to stop (Georgetown) because they cut so well and go back door so well, we'd end up fouling them. And I would rather have the ball than rely on them missing. . . . I was happy. We got a decent shot. It wasn't a great shot but a decent shot, but I want (Siva) to get his confidence going as well."

Of the final play itself, Pitino said, "It was either Peyton or Russ. I felt at this point in the game Peyton was the fresher player, he hadn't played the whole game. He's also the best shooter on the team, and the best free throw shooter. Nobody was really on tonight, per se. He got a good shot up, he got a 15-foot shot. That's all you can say."

But you know that much more will be said about this game, and not only the ending.

Once again, U of L's offense was stifled from start to finish. Pitino brought Russ Smith off the bench and inserted Luke Hancock as a starter in the hope of getting more players more touches early. That much was accomplished. But not everybody who touched it offensively was able to do anything with it.

There were major scoring droughts in both halves. Here's a telling picture of the offense, the field goal breakdown: Hancock 4, Smith 4, Dieng 4, rest of the team 4.

The only three players to shoot free throws in the second half were U of L's least reliable shooters from the line -- Chane Behanan, Montrezl Harrell and Dieng. They went 4 for 10.

Hancock, who hit a pair of threes to give U of L a lead early in the second half, did not get a shot in the final 12 minutes.

In the game's final three minutes, the only field goals scored by either team were off offensive rebounds. And Pitino blamed a lack of blocking out for the loss.

Losing at Georgetown is nothing new for U of L. The Hoyas always play the Cardinals tough. But now that it's a third loss in a row, the concern level rises -- at least from those watching the program.

"Tonight we didn't give it away," Pitino said. "This is the Big East. It has happened every year I've been here. We don't panic. Some people panic. We don't panic at Louisville. We know we're judged in March. We don't like losing and we're fighting hard, but all college basketball is judged in March. … We have played good basketball all through this year. We're struggling at the offensive end, we have been. I keep telling the guys that's ok as long as your defense is great.

"We're not a great shooting team. We've just got to get the ball inside and get on the break a little more."

Pitino also called the upcoming home game against Pittsburgh a "must" win.

"You don't want to drop four straight," he said.

At this point, a team that was playing better than anyone in the nation two weeks ago all of a sudden looks as if it can't figure things out. There's good reason for that. Other teams have figured it out.

But this team also has experience with this kind of situation. Siva had few words for reporters after Saturday's game. But he was willing to take the shot. And he'll be as big a key to any turnaround as he has been in the struggles.

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