The junior point guard's flip-in floater with 1.4 seconds to play in overtime gave the University of Louisville a 62-60 come-from-behind victory over visiting Vanderbilt in front of 22,728 fans Friday night at the KFC Yum! Center.
Siva's basket capped the Cards' rally from a nine-point deficit with less than eight minutes remaining in regulation and also kept them perfect on the young season. It also brought back memories of last season - including his game-winning drive and layup to beat West Virginia – when Louisville made big comebacks commonplace.
"Since last summer, and even going back to last year, he's stepped up and made big shots," senior forward Kyle Kuric said of Siva.
Kuric scored 15 points, including five in overtime, to lead Louisville (7-0), which is sixth in both national polls. Freshman forward Chane Behanan, who recovered from missing the potential game-winning at the end of regulation, added 14 points and 10 rebounds while Siva scored 14 points, snared seven rebounds and dished out five assists.
Siva finished the game the way he started it, with a layup.
His basket 27 seconds into Friday night's primetime Big East/SEC Challenge game gave Louisville a 2-0 lead. Then, after the Commodores (5-3) hit one free throw, Kuric hit a three-pointer to give UofL a 5-1 lead – the Cards' largest of the game.
Vandy responded with seven straight – all from junior guard John Jenkins – to take a 7-5 lead. The Cards came back to take the lead later in the half before Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor hit three-pointers to give the Commodores a 23-18 cushion three minutes before intermission.
"We wanted to wear them out physically the whole night," Pitino said. "We made some big mistakes in the beginning by running and trapping. When you have shooters in the game you want to wear them out so they don't have their legs in the end of the game."
Louisville answered, though, with a 7-2 spurt. Chris Smith's three 35 seconds before halftime tied the score at 25. However Lance Goulbourne hit 1 of 2 free throws with three seconds left to give Vandy a 26-25 advantage at intermission.
The Commodores led despite shooting 36 percent (9 for 25) from the field and in spite of the fact that they were outrebounded 21-12. The Cards, though, were plagued by 10 (four each from Siva and Kuric) first-half turnovers.
UofL took the lead early in the second half, but Vandy retook it a short time later behind Jenkins and Taylor – both of whom were preseason first-team All-SEC selections by the coaches and media.
Jenkins' jumper with 8:49 to play in the game gave the Commodores their largest lead – 43-34.
That, however, just set up the Cards' comeback. It began with Behanan's jumper with 7:44 remaining. Moments later the freshman knocked down just his second three-pointer of the season before a dunk by Gorgui Dieng, off an assist from Siva, made it 43-41.
Vandy's Brad Tinsley responded with a three-pointer, then Goulbourne hit 1 of 2 free throws with 4:12 to play to boost the Commodores' lead back to six (47-41).
But back-to-back baskets by Russ Smith and Kuric preceded a steal and dunk by Behanan that tied the game with 2:30 left. The remainder of regulation was a free throw battle before Behanan missed a point-blank bank shot with one second left.
In OT Vanderbilt scored the first five points – on a three-pointer and two free throws from Jenkins (who finished with 27 points) - before Behanan converted a conventional three-point play with 2:11 remaining. That came on the heels of Behanan's brief trip to the UofL bench.
"I thought Chane had a great shot at the end of regulation, and defensively he gets a little lost in what we are trying to do. He told me down the stretch, ‘Don't take me out because I'm going to get every rebound.' I told him I wasn't even thinking about taking him out and to go get every rebound. He made two big free throws for us."
Goulbourne then hit two free throws then Behanan hit those two aforementioned free throws with 1:29 to play.
Following a turnover by the Commodores, Siva found Kuric in the corne – his corner. The senior hesitated briefly before burying a difficult shot.
"Kyle didn't want to shoot that ball, but I yelled, ‘Shoot it Kyle!'" Pitino said. "I'll live with it if we miss it from Kyle's corner. He had to shoot that shot. It was contested, it was behind the backboard, it was a difficult shot, but that's a shot he makes in his sleep."
"He's the one with ice water in his veins," Siva said of Kuric.
After Tinsley hit 1 of 2 free throws Kuric proved that again with an up-and-under move that gave Louisville a 60-58 lead with 34 seconds left.
"In the timeout I told him, ‘They are going to expect you in the corner,'" Pitino said. "I told Peyton to come off the screen and throw a flip pass. Kyle got his defender up in the air and made a great play, and so did Peyton."
Jenkins hit a pair of free throws, after being fouled by Kuric, with 12.2 to play to tie the game, and set up Siva's heroics.
Siva's game-winning shot was very similar to the one he hit to beat West Virginia last January, but the play was much different than it was that day. Siva said in last season's game against the Mountaineers the final shot was originally designed for Preston Knowles before the middle of the lane opened up for him.
This time around Siva got free thanks to a high flat on-ball screen from Dieng, got into the lane and flipped in the layin.
"It's my fault," Vandy coach Kevin Stallings said of Louisville's basket. "We misplayed the last play. We knew what they were going to do and we should've played that differently. That's my one regret of the game. We should've adjusted our defense a little bit more. We could've done a little bit more to defend that play better. He is a great penetrator. He's not making shots right now. After the first couple of times he got to the rim on us we really wanted to keep him away from the goal. We started going underneath his ball screens and trying to keep him outside the perimeter and he wasn't as effective. Obviously he made a great play there at the end."
"He's got blinding speed and is a terrific basketball player," Pitino said. "He's a little rusty, but he makes great plays…and that is what a great point guard will do, make plays down at the end."
Said Siva of his shot: "Right away I was like, ‘Thank you God,' and hopefully they don't hit a half-court shot."
Vandy tried a three-quarter court pass, but Behanan deflected it before the horn sounded. Louisville, which outscored the Commodores 34-12 in the paint, won despite shooting 41.7 percent (25 for 60), including a season-low 25 percent (5 for 20) from three-point range.
"We didn't play great offense, but that was due to their terrific defense," Pitino said. "This team, since 1987, never have I had this much fun coaching than the last two years. This team epitomizes everything you want in a team in terms of rooting for each other and not giving up."
"Right now because of all our injuries we're not a very cohesive offensive basketball team, but we are playing incredible defense and playing with incredible effort each night out," Pitino said.
The Cards host IUPUI at 7:07 p.m. Wednesday night, when Pitino expects junior forward Rakeem Buckles to see his first action of the season.
"He is going to play some minutes the next game, so we know we are going to get a lot better offensively," Pitino said.