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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Louisville executes in crunch time to avoid first four-game losing streak in nine years

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(USA Today Sports Images)

Some teams just seem to play better when less is expected of them. Perhaps that is the case with Louisville

The Cardinals reached No.1 in the polls two weeks ago but didn't handle the success well and proceeded to lose three straight. One of those losses came against a fellow top-10 team in Syracuse and wasn't such a big deal, but there were serious questions about the mental toughness of coach Rick Pitino's team after losses to Villanova and Georgetown, especially because those opponents executed down the stretch while the Cardinals made mistakes.

Having fallen all the way to No. 12 in this week's Associated Press poll, Louisville rebounded Monday with a 64-61 victory over Pitt and it did so by making smart decisions and executing – for the most part – in the final minutes. The victory helped the Cardinals avoid their first four-game losing streak since 2004 and improve to 17-4 overall and 5-3 in the Big East.

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There are still too many concerns for Louisville to dismiss the losing streak as a hiccup. At the top of the list of concerns is the erratic play of senior guard Peyton Siva who scored just two points playing all 40 minutes Monday but also dished 10 assists. In the past five games Siva has scored 11, 3, 15, 0 and 2 points while handing out 4, 6, 13, 2 and 10 assists.

Pitino needs more consistency from Siva for the Cardinals to get back to the form that carried them to No. 1 in the first place.

Louisville committed just 12 turnovers and shot 45 percent with Gorgui Dieng leading the way on both ends of the court. He scored 14 points with 12 rebounds, four assists and five blocked shots and also made two crucial free throws in the final 13 seconds to prevent any last-second heroics from the Panthers.

Follow Kyle on Twitter @KyleRingo

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