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March 5, 2013
Peyton Siva collected the opening tip against Cincinnati Monday night and didn't hestitae, charging full speed down the lane. He missed the shot in traffic, but he accomplished his goal -- setting the tone for himself and putting his worst performance of the season two days earlier in the rearview mirror.
In last Saturday's 58-53 win over Syracuse, Siva had endured a nightmarish afternoon. The senior point guard not only missed all nine of his shots and was scoreless for just the second time this season, but was on the bench for the critical last five minutes when UofL coach Rick Pitino used Kevin Ware instead.
However, Siva characteristically shrugged off his problems against Syracuse, determined to get back to his usual game. He said he didn't get down mentally over his Carrier Dome woes.
"There's no reason to; we won the game so that's all that matters," Siva said. "I didn't play well, but everybody else picked it up. So there's no reason for me to get down, especially when we win a big game like that.
"I really don't pay any attention to anything anybody says. People asked me if something's wrong, I tell them, 'No, we won.' I'm not the type of player that keeps my stats, so I was just happy with the win."
Pitin said Siva's Christian faith helps him stay even keeled.
"I say this in an endearing way, I wish, we all wish, that we had his spirituality, because everything, good or bad, to him, is in the Lord's hands," Pitino said. "He can't get down because it's in the Lord's hands in his mind. It would be great if everybody could think that way.
"He's taught me so much about spirituality and the way I watched him, an inner-city kid with a lot of difficulties in his life, never gets down. In this culture today, when the coach doesn't go with the captain in the last four or five minutes of the game, there is not one person who would've been the biggest cheerleader but him. He's a very, very, unique young man and we don't find that in our culture today."
Against Cincinnati (20-10, 8-9), Siva scored all 11 of his points in the first half, hitting 5-of-11 field goal attempts, then took only two shots in the second period. He also finished with four assists and two steals in 29 minutes.
"I was just trying to attack (early)," Siva said. "It's that time of year; Coach Pitino told me to be aggressive and keep playing my game. We got into a good flow, everybody was playing great. We did what we had to do to win."
Siva's oh-fer Saturday made him 1-of-18 against Syracuse this season and it also made him even more like Billy Donovan according to Pitino, who has often compared his personable point guard to the former Providence star and current Florida coach.
"I told Peyton, 'Peyton, I always say you and Billy Donovan are two of the best human beings I've ever coached in my life. Billy the Kid couldn't play well against Syracuse either. Six times he just had a bad game. You're not only like him as a person, but you're like him in that you can't play against Syracuse.' Certain teams bother certain players, and I knew he would come back in a big way."
Said Siva with a smile: "He told me after the game that Billy sucked against Syracuse too. So if everything's comparable to him, hopefully I'll get to the NBA like he did and have a successful career coaching later."
Pitino said he is not looking forward to losing Siva to graduation.
"A lot of people always use the term 'Blessed, I'm really blessed, I'm really blessed,'" Pitino said. "I think we all are and anyone who has a family is blessed, but I am blessed, as a coach, to have spent four years with that young man, because he never gets down. It's great; it's a great, great thing and a lesson for all of us."
The victory over UC -- No. 8/6 Louisville's sixth straight and ninth in their last 10 games -- enabled the Cards (25-5, 13-4) to clinch a double-bye into the quarterfinals of next week's Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden and kept alive their hopes for at least a share of the regular-season conference title. UofL trails league leader Georgetown (23-4, 13-3) by a half game. The Hoyas travel to Villanova (18-12, 9-8) Wednesday night, then host No. 17/16 Syracuse (22-7, 10-6) Saturday.
It also set the stage for a rousing season finale Saturday against No. 24 Notre Dame (22-7, 10-6) in a nationally televised game tipping off at 4 p.m. The Cards will be seeking to avenge the earlier 104-101 five-overtime loss to the Irish in South Bend.
And it will be Senior Day, marking the final home appearance for Siva, along with Mike Marra and possibly junior Gorgui Dieng, whom Pitino has urged to go pro.
Asked about his feelings going into his last game in the KFC Yum! Center, Siva said, "Just win. I've been here awhile and it's coming to an end. It's been a great experience. of course, you feel sad leaving this place, but I look forward to taking the next step in my journey."