INTERVIEW WITH RUSS SMITH
INTERVIEW WITH PEYTON SIVA
W YORK (AP)--Peyton Siva had 14 points and six steals, and Louisville held off Seton Hall 61-55 on Wednesday night to reach the Big East Championship Presented by American Eagle Outfitters quarterfinals, leaving the Pirates to sweat out Selection Sunday as they hope for an NCAA tournament bid.
Kyle Kuric added 13 points and Gorgui Dieng stuffed Seton Hall inside with six blocks and 10 rebounds to help the seventh-seeded Cardinals advance to play ninth-ranked and second-seeded Marquette on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
Russ Smith scored five of his 11 down the stretch as Louisville (23-9) thwarted Seton Hall's late charge to stop a two-game skid.
Jordan Theodore scored 17 and Herb Pope had 11 points and 15 rebounds to lead the 10th-seeded Pirates (20-12), sitting tenuously on the NCAA bubble. Seton Hall shot just 33 percent--including 3 of 19 from 3-point range--and lost for the 10th time in its final 15 games.
The victory gave Cardinals coach Rick Pitino his second win this season over protege Kevin Willard, who spent six seasons on the Louisville staff as an assistant.
Siva made two steals and a tough bank shot in the first 65 seconds after halftime and keyed a 20-6 run to start the second half that put Louisville in control.
Kuric's 3-pointer made it 48-33 with 9:54 left, but the Pirates--perhaps playing for their NCAA tournament lives--wouldn't go down easily. They fought back and trimmed it to 59-55 on Theodore's 3 with 47.9 seconds to go.
Smith hit a free throw, however, and Theodore missed a pair of 3s before Kuric added another foul shot with 14.6 seconds remaining.
Theodore led Seton Hall to a 79-47 rout of Providence in the first round Tuesday night, when the Pirates shot 56 percent from the field. The best 3-point shooting team in the league, they couldn't keep it up against Louisville's clamp-down defense.
The Cardinals came into the game holding opponents to 37.9 percent shooting from the field--the best mark in the Big East--and they showed why.
After the win over Providence, Willard acknowledged it's always difficult to go up against Pitino, a man the Seton Hall coach twice referred to as a "father figure."
Willard also apprenticed under Pitino with the Boston Celtics. Pitino and Willard's father, Ralph, are longtime friends and the elder Willard also was a lead assistant for years under Pitino.
A white-haired Ralph Willard sat right behind his son's bench, hand on chin with an uncomfortable look on his face.
"The great thing about Coach Pitino is it doesn't matter what time you call, he'll pick up your phone. He has been tremendous. He was great this year when we were struggling and lost a couple games in a row," Kevin Willard said Tuesday. "He called me twice during that stretch, which is unheard of in this league. I'm very lucky to have him."
Pitino's team this season lacks a big-name star, but the Cardinals get it done with defense.
It was no different early on against the Pirates, who shot 6 for 24 (25 percent) in the first half, including 2 for 10 from long range.
Louisville wasn't much better from the floor at 27.6 percent, but went into the break with a 23-22 lead.
Theodore, who sliced his way through the Providence defense for 13 often flashy assists and just one turnover, had no assists and four turnovers at halftime. The senior ditched his blue sleeves early in the game, exposing his many tattoos, but it didn't seem to help.