Watching the first half of last nights game with the Connecticut Huskies, it may have been unclear how the Louisville Cardinals are number one in the country. What you might not have realized was that Louisville point guard Peyton Siva picked up his second foul just under four minutes and was forced to sit out the entire first half, allowing UConn to build an 6-point halftime lead, 34-28.
Louisville was recently anointed the top-ranked team in the AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches’ Poll and the XL Center in Hartford was their first chance to defend their new ranking. And defend they did.
I saw with my own two eyes how important Peyton Siva is to the Louisville Cardinals.
Without him on the floor for the vast majority of the first half, the Louisville offense looked out of sorts–they settled for jumper after jumper and looked sluggish. Maybe you can chalk the sluggishness up to flying in on game day. Or maybe you can chalk it up to Siva not running the offense. They shot a paltry 12-of-30 (40%) from the field and connected on just 1-of-6 three point attempts.
The stats don’t tell the entire story though.
When he’s in the game the rest of the team just looks like they’re more comfortable. He’s a penetrating guard who’s capable of driving the lane and kicking it out to an open teammate. He can also score at the rim. He can turn a simple defensive rebound into a 2-on-1 fast break in the blink of an eye. He’s Louisville’s Energizer Bunny.
When Siva was on the floor in the second half, you could see the difference. He was creating shots for teammates, driving the hoop, disrupting the UConn guards on defense–namely Shabazz Napier–who scored 10 points in the first half but only two in the second.
They talk about players who can fill up a stat sheet. Last night he had 11 points, three rebounds, four assists, and three steals. I’d say his stat sheet was pretty much filled up–in only 22 minutes.
He’s averaging 11.8 points per game and dishes out 5.6 assists per game but again, his stats don’t tell the whole story. While they’re good enough to stand alone, what Siva means to this team cannot be quantified.
As long as he is healthy and can stay out of foul trouble, Louisville should be a force to be reckoned with.
For the record, Louisville outscored UConn 45-24 and shot over 60% (17-for-28) in the second half with Siva at the point.
Final score: Louisville 73, Connecticut 58