Guards Peyton Siva and Russ Smith can score, distribute and play lock-down defense with equal tenacity, and Friday night they were once again a force in No. 4 Louisville's 69-57 victory over No. 24 Notre Dame in the semifinals of the Big East tournament at sold-out Madison Square Garden. Louisville, which has won nine straight, faces fifth-seeded Syracuse in the final on Saturday. The second-seeded Cardinals, the defending tournament champion, have reached the final for the third consecutive year. They also claimed the title in 2009. Smith led the Cardinals (28-5) with 20 points, six assists and a steal. Siva added 12 points and six assists, and he tied the Big East tournament single-game record with seven steals. Siva, who stands 6 feet, also set Louisville's record for steals in a career at 236. He passed the old mark of 230 held by Darrell Griffith. Whenever Louisville needed a big basket to pull away from the sixth-seeded Irish, Siva or Smith was there to deliver. "I just felt we were at a couple of bad places at one time, and Peyton Siva kept bailing us out one rotation after another," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "He's just an incredible player. I sometimes don't give him too much of a break because I have so much confidence in him in every phase of the game. "Russ can be frustrating at times. That being said, you've got to give him his latitude because he's such a great player. Russ offensively as well as defensively does it. Peyton does it at both ends of the floor." Notre Dame (25-9) pulled to within 41-37 with 11:10 to go on a Zach Auguste layup, but that's when Siva and Smith turned it up a notch. The duo combined for all of Louisville's points in a 9-4 run to pull away to a 50-41 lead with six minutes to play. "It's tough because you've got two small guards in Siva and Smith who can get up and underneath you," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "It's an unbelievable workout for Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant to bring the ball up. "(Atkins and Grant) don't come out of the game much. Against other teams they can stay pretty fresh for the stretch run. They were exhausted tonight." Grant committed six turnovers under the pressure. Notre Dame, which won an epic five-overtime game against the Cardinals on Feb. 9, got 14 points apiece from Jack Cooley and Grant. "Their pressure on the full court started us off going fast," Cooley said, "and by the time we got settled in our offense, there wasn't a lot of time left on the clock." The Cardinals forced 16 turnovers and recorded 11 steals. Coach Rick Pitino's team forces 18.8 turnovers per game and has collected double-digit steals in 25 of its 33 games. Louisville held a 32-25 lead at the half on the strength of balanced scoring. Siva led eight players with eight points as Pitino went to his bench early. Notre Dame reserve Garrick Sherman continued his role as a scorer for the second straight game. He made all four of his first-half shots for eight points, but he went 0-for-5 after halftime. Siva, who had three steals in the first-round win over Villanova, had four swipes in the first half Friday. Louisville has won six straight games in the Big East tournament, the fifth-longest streak in tournament history. NOTES: Notre Dame's 25 wins are tied for the second most of the 13-season Brey era. ... This is the third straight season Notre Dame and Louisville met in the semifinals of the Big East tournament. The Cardinals hold a 2-1 advantage. ... Five of the last seven meetings between Notre Dame and Louisville have gone into overtime. ... Louisville has a 7-5 edge over the Irish since the Cardinals joined the Big East in 2005.
- Sports & Recreation
- Peyton Siva