PORTLAND, Ore. – The No. 4 seed Louisville Cardinals spent most of the first half with a slim lead over the upset-minded No. 13 seed Davidson Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament second round and held a 33-25 lead at halftime, led by junior guard Peyton Siva’s nine points and four assists.
And then Siva started the second half with a steal and a slam, and from there Louisville was never threatened. The Seattle native put in eight points in the first nine minutes of the second half, finishing with 17 points and six assists before fouling out with 2:33 to go as the Cardinals (27-9) beat the Wildcats (25-8) 69-62 Thursday afternoon at the Rose Garden.
“Coach said we wouldn’t have a home-court advantage,” Siva said. “But if everybody was like my dad, we would.”
Despite a six-year streak of making the tournament and having reached two Elite Eights in that span, this was the first time in three years that Rick Pitino’s team has won a game in the tournament.
“Every year, it’s just different. This is a very good basketball team,” Pitino said.
“They just came off a Big East Tournament championship where we had to beat some outstanding teams.”
Apart from Siva’s strong effort, Louisville got big games from freshman forward Chane Behanan, who had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, and from senior guard Kyle Kuric, who had 13 points and four rebounds.
In a losing effort, Davidson was led by junior forwards Jake Cohen and Clint Mann. Cohen led all scorers with 24 points on 9-for-19 shooting, while Mann chipped in 13 points and added a game-high three blocks.
But Cohen and Mann were the only two Wildcats in double figures for a team that had five different players averaging more than 10 points per game. Outside of Cohen and Mann, the Wildcats combined to shoot 6 for 32 from the field.
Pitino and his players cited the full-court pressure as a deliberate attempt to sidetrack the Wildcats’ offense, which had its lowest output of the year Thursday.
“It might not have shown in the turnover department,” Siva said. “We just tried to wear their guards out, so later on in the game it would affect their free-throw shooting and their three-point shooting.”
Davidson head coach Bob McKillop cited Louisville’s methodical offense and pressing defense for wearing down his team.
“Factor in Louisville pressured you from end line to end line the entire game,” McKillop said. “While it may not show its ugly head in terms of turnovers, I think it wears you down, and when you have to do that, it takes away some of your legs.”
Louisville sophomore center Gorgui Dieng picked up three fouls in the first 10 minutes of game time. Before that happened, the 6-11 pivot from Senegal had been a threat on the defensive end and allowed Siva ample room with effective screens.
Dieng eventually finished the game with nine points, seven rebounds and two blocks in 19 minutes of game time.
“I was mad at him for a minute,” Behanan said about Dieng’s foul trouble. “But I knew I had to take it upon myself and just play like a vet and just go in and rebound.”
Louisville’s will take on New Mexico Saturday.