University of Louisville

Sharp play from Siva sparks Cardinals' rally over Wildcats

Louisville's Russ Smith, left, drove around the defense of Villanova's Maalik Wayns during the first half Wednesday.
Louisville's Russ Smith, left, drove around the defense of Villanova's Maalik Wayns during the first half Wednesday. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Peyton Siva says he's been working extra hours improving his shooting skills. His court vision is as sharp as ever.

Siva scored 16 points and Louisville beat Villanova 84-74 on Wednesday to return to .500 in the Big East after a rough start to conference play.

"I came early to get shots up, to keep working on it, because I know it's going to help me out in the long run. I didn't take any threes in warm-ups; I only took mid-range shots," Siva said. "It paid off."

Siva was brilliant late when the Cardinals (16-5, 4-4) needed him most.

He made a turnaround jumper from 15 feet to give the Cardinals a 73-67 lead with 2:56 left, then made two sharp passes on the next two possessions that led to points, including Jared Swopshire's three-pointer from the corner that made it 78-69 with 1:12 left. It was only the second three-pointer in 11 attempts this season for Swopshire.

"I'm a point guard, so I've got to find open guys. My job is to create and get them open looks," Siva said. "I was just glad Jared made it because it got me an assist and I was like, 'Yeah, Jared, you finally got one.'"

Siva also made two free throws with 57 seconds left that iced it. Louisville made 20 of 26 free throws in the second half, including 10 of its final 12.

"If we would've done that against Georgetown and Notre Dame, we'd have had two more victories," Louisville Coach Rick Pitino said.

Louisville came in with losses in five of its previous eight, including at home to the Hoyas and Irish and road defeats to Marquette and Providence. The Cardinals won at Pittsburgh on Saturday.

"I think everybody's getting their confidence," Siva said. "Everybody's playing together right now."

Villanova (10-11, 3-6) rallied from a nine-point first-half deficit to lead by as many as six, but went cold in the second half as its modest two-game winning streak ended.

Big East player of the week Maalik Wayns scored 19 points after being saddled with foul trouble early in the second half and going to the bench with nearly 18½ minutes to play.

"You have to be a good enough team because you know that is going to happen," Villanova Coach Jay Wright said. "I would've liked to have seen us step up defensively a little better when he stepped out, but we didn't."

Louisville got contributions from all over. Chris Smith, Kyle Kuric and Chane Behanan scored 14 points apiece and Gorgui Dieng chipped in 12 points and 13 rebounds.

"They've got a lot of guys that can hurt you in a lot of different ways. They don't rely on one guy," Wright said. "They spread it out and that makes them tough to guard. We gave up 45 points in the second half and they kind of spread that around."

After taking a 44-39 halftime lead, Villanova struggled with Louisville's defense and shot 30.3 percent in the second half without Wayns on the floor for long stretches because of foul trouble.

"I thought we played a good first half, and then in the second half, I thought our defense was poor," Wright said. "They did a great job of finding different people, creating balance, and the offensive glass really hurt us in the second half."