Louisville this season has now played the current #1 and #2 teams in the country. Even with losses in both games, the Cards have proven that they can play/beat any team in the country. In a game where Siva sat for about 45 live minutes (about 14 game minutes) with three fouls, the Cards held the lead with back-ups like Justice and Swopshire against a very powerful Syracuse team. The lengthy 2-3 zone staple of a Jim Boeheim coached team was stingy for most of the game, but when Siva was able to penetrate, good things happened (except for the last play of the game).
At the beginning of the season, the fans knew that this year would live and die by the play of our undersized, big hearted point guard. After some adversity both on and off the court in the early parts of play, Siva has exploded back to the player we all knew he could be. His quickness is unmatched, and when he gets to the lane, he has been making very good decisions (except for the last play of the game). In the last three games, he is averaging 8.3 points (mainly lay-ups), and 6 assists. His assist numbers could be even higher, but this years team is not as good of a shooting team as we’ve had in the past. I did have a flashback last night of the dreaded UK game when Siva drove to the lane and randomly chucked it to half court, and the five turnovers against SU must get better (esp. since we play them again at their place), but all in all Siva is playing much better and his confidence seems to be on the up and up.
I thought Russ Smith would be able to penetrate that zone like Siva had been doing, and when Siva went out, Russ was our lone hope to attack the lane off the dribble. The longer guards of ‘Cuse seemed to beat Russ to the spot every time, which congested the passing lanes and didn’t allow us to create. The offense became very stationary with an occasional half hearted cut (most of the time not even trying to look for the ball).
One thing I hope to see next time we play SU is to put Kuric in the high post some. Behanan was a beast last night and if Kuric can hit that high post shot a couple of times, it will open things up even more so on the blocks for Behanan and Dieng. Dieng will continue to develop, but I think we saw last night he still has some work to do on his mid-range game, both shooting and passing the ball.
With Pitino coached teams, you always hear that they will be peaking come February and at the end of the season. The Cards still haven’t been able to press like we all had hoped, but with the gradual return of the versatile Blackshear to the line-up, the bodies will be there to give our team options. This team will ultimately be judged by the tournament, and things as of late seem to be heading in the right direction. If we can delete some of the turnovers, and continue to create off the bounce (aka keep Siva out of foul trouble), this roller coaster of a season could keep excited Louisville hands in air.