The key to the Cardinals Big East and NCAA Tournament hopes rest with junior point guard Peyton Siva.
Expected to be one of the nation's top guards this season, Siva badly injured his ankle earlier this season and never seemed to regain his sophomore form. Though Siva ranks fifth in the Big East in assists, he's struggled with his decision making and outside shooting, while too often finding himself in early foul trouble.In Louisville's last six games, Siva has committed 24 turnovers (26 assists), including six in the regular-season finale against the Orange. In those six games, Siva made 17 of 40 field goals, but scored in double figures just twice. Siva also had 3 or more fouls in four of those six games.
"We've got to get Peyton back to the Peyton Siva we expect and we will," Pitino said. "He's got to focus on being the great player that he is and block everything else out. I think the more we run the more he'll get (his confidence) back. He's not (a slow down) type of basketball player."
Siva's late season slump mirrors Louisville's offensive struggles heading into Wednesday's second round Big East Tournament game against Seton Hall, who beat Providence 79-47 Tuesday night. In the last six games, Louisville failed to score more than 57 points five times. Three times the Cardinals failed to score more than 51 points.
Over the final four games of the regular-season, Louisville made just 35 percent of its shots, including an erratic 17.8 percent from the three-point line, including 2 of 23 against Syracuse. In the four prior games, Louisville made 38.8 percent from three, including a season-high 12 against DePaul. For the season, the Cardinals have made just 31 percent from deep, the worst mark in school history.
"That's been our Achiles heel - we keep missing open shots," Pitino said. "I think I can change a lot of that by pressing more and getting more layups. We're very excited about going into New York and I think we'll be a different basketball team as we go in there. We're going to play a lot faster and it will help us immensely."
If Pitino can find a way to reignite UofL's offense the Cardinals could be a formidable out in the post-season. Louisville is 13-0 this season when shooting 43 percent or better from the floor. The Cardinals are 11-2 when they hit six or more three's - something they managed just once in their last six games.
Kuric, Behanan Earn BIG EAST Honors
UofL players Kyle Kuric and Chane Behanan have been selected for post-season honors in the BIG EAST Conference in a vote of the league head coaches. A 6-4 senior from Evansville, Ind., Kuric was earned BIG EAST Honorable Mention honors, placing him among the top 21 players in the 16- team league. A 6-7 freshman from Cincinnati, Ohio, Behanan was named to the BIG EAST All-Rookie team, which featured seven players this year because of voting ties.
Louisville at MSG
Louisville has an all-time 23-26 record in Madison Square Garden and the Cards have won eight of their last 13 games there. UofL won the 1956 NIT Championship in the Garden as well as the 2009 BIG EAST Championship and 1971 Holiday Festival. U of L is 6-5 in the Garden for BIG EAST Tournament games.
Seventh Big East Tournament for Cards
Louisville is making its seventh BIG EAST Tournament appearance. Louisville reached the championship game of the 2011 BIG EAST Tournament for the second time in three years. After a double-round bye, the third seeded Cardinals beat Marquette 81-56 in the quarterfinals; beat No. 4/4 Notre Dame 83-77 in overtime in the semifinals; and fell 66-69 to No. 21/19 Connecticut in the championship game on Saturday. The Cardinals have won five of their last seven games in the BIG Tournament.
The Cardinals' new "InfraRED" uniforms will be more than 25 percent lighter than their previous uniforms. The attire features a ClimaCool zone, which moves heat and sweat away from the body for optimal moisture-wicking and breathability to keep jersey from gaining weight, a technology used in the NBA. The shorts worn by Louisville's student-athletes possess a four-way stretch woven material used to increase mobility and speed.
Louisville is one of three adidas-sponsored schools - Cincinnati and Baylor are the other two - selected to don the uniforms for postseason play.
A No. 7 seed in the tournament, Louisville (22-9, 10-8 BIG EAST) will face the winner of the Seton Hall/Providence matchup on Wednesday, March 7, at 7 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN/ESPN3D.