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Peyton Siva delivers, Louisville advances to Big East final

Mar 15, 2013, 11:53 PM EST

Peyton Siva AP

NEW YORK, N.Y.– Peyton Siva’s play down the stretch last season was one of the major reasons Louisville made a run to the Final Four in New Orleans. His run of strong outings began in the 2012 Big East. After No. 4 Louisville’s win Friday night over Notre Dame, we have to ask ourselves if we’re seeing the same thing happen again.

Siva had 12 points, seven steals, and six assists while turning the ball over just two times in Louisville’s 69-57 win over the Irish in the Big East tournament semifinals at Madison Square Garden. The win eliminates Notre Dame and sends Louisville on to face Syracuse for the conference championship and an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.

Siva’s steal and layup with 6:05 to play pushed the lead to nine points, 50-41, and spelled the beginning of the end for Notre Dame. If he didn’t make a steal, he was integral to Louisville’s ability to defend against the strong Notre Dame backcourt of Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant.

“We were out of place a couple times and Peyton Siva just kept bailing us out with one rotation after another,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “He’s just an incredible player. I sometimes just don’t give him too much of a break because I have so much confidence in him in every phase of the game.”

Siva became the all-time leader in steals at Louisville Friday evening and Pitino compared him to another notable guard that he has coached.

“The two greatest people I’ve ever coached in my life were Billy Donovan and Peyton Siva, just as people,” Pitino said. “Then you match the fact that they were both great point guards. I’ve been very very lucky…”

Siva was half of the backcourt that will likely decide how far Louisville goes this March. Russ Smith complemented Siva with 20 points and six assists. If those two play at this level throughout March, it is not out of the question that Louisville could go on another postseason. A strong backcourt, plus the increased versatility of shot-blocking center Gorgui Dieng, and the Cardinals are in business.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_