Peyton Siva had 12 points and six assists as Louisville defeated St. John's Thursday night.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – When Peyton Siva plays well, the University of Louisville basketball team plays well.
That's not simply me trying to play Jay Bilas. That's Denny Crum speaking.
Crum, the Cards' former coach, was honored at halftime of Louisville's 72-58 victory against St. John's Thursday night at the KFC Yum! Center. Before Crum moved to mid-court, he huddled with former U of L stars Wiley Brown and Roger Burkman.
Here came Siva rushing, rushing, rushing with the basketball. He got the ball by the St. John's basket with less than seven seconds to go and raced to the other end of the court to score milliseconds ahead of the buzzer.
It was Siva's fourth basket of the first half. All four came in the final seven minutes as Louisville rallied from a 19-16 deficit to lead 32-23 lead. Crum noticed Siva's assertive play. He liked it. He said Louisville needed it to succeed over the remainder of this season.
"When Siva plays well, they play well," Crum said. I agree.
I asked Siva for his reaction to what the Hall of Fame coach said.
"I guess that means I need to play better," Siva said, with a smile.
I guess that also means that I better check the numbers. Is there statistical confirmation about what Crum and I believe?
You be the judge, but you don't have to be Antonin Scalia to argue the case.
By defeating St. John's, Louisville pushed its record to 20-5. In the Cardinals' 20 victories, Siva has averaged 11 points per game. In the Cards' five defeats, the average drops to 7.8. In three of the losses Siva has scored 3 (Syracuse), 0 (Georgetown) and 2 (Notre Dame).
When Louisville wins, Siva shoots 45.9 percent and makes better than 36 percent of his three-point shots. In the Cards' five losses, he has made only a third of his shots and gone 3 for 16 (18.8) percent from the three-point line.
(For the record, the difference has not been Siva's eyesight. Contrary to one report on Twitter Thursday, Siva said this was not his first game wearing contact lenses. He has worn them all season.)
But shooting is not the trademark of Siva's game. It never has been. The coaches in the Big East selected him as the league's pre-season player of the year because of the way Siva runs a team, defends and competes.
So I also checked Siva's assist-to-turnover ratio – 2.3 assists for every turnover when Louisville wins. The ratio slips to 1.7-to-1 in the Cardinals' losses.
Siva's finished with 12 points, six assists and four rebounds against the Red Storm. The only points he scored in the second half were four free throws.
He didn't look to shoot the way he did over those final seven minutes of the first half when he made a pair of 17-footers as well as a pair of layups.
That is what Siva must do – deliver on that mid-range jump shot so opponents don't pack the lane. Driving gets easier when the defense comes out to chase Siva. His teammates encourage him to shoot with confidence. They should.
"We all tell each other to do that," U of L guard Russ Smith said. "We're all on each other to shoot. It's a very positive unit. Peyton is very good at scouting. He's very good at reading defenses. The way they were playing him, he had those shots and he just nailed them."
But don't expect Siva to come out firing and play like a guy trying to fill up the stat sheet or impress the nine NBA scouts at the game. That's not his personality or his approach. The first column in the box score that Siva studies is turnovers.
His annoyance over his two turnovers overshadowed his joy about delivering six assists. He is not going to try to lead this team in scoring. He tries to lead this team in playing sensible basketball.
"I'm not the type of person who is going to think, 'Oh, this is my team and I need the ball,'" Siva said.
"We have Chane Behanan, who was MVP (in the NCAA West Regional) going into the Final Four. We have Russ Smith, who is arguably one of the best guards in the nation. We have Gorgui Dieng who is one of the best centers in the nation.
"Why would I take it upon me to think I'm the best player? My job is to be the point guard, continue to facilitate and get them the ball."
Indeed. But remember: When Peyton Siva plays well, Louisville plays well.