(AP) — Two of the marquee point guards in the country are set to square off and Louisville coach Rick Pitino is counting on his to bounce back from a rough effort.
Peyton Siva and the No. 2 Cardinals meet Phil Pressey and No. 13 Missouri on Friday night in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas.
These 4-0 teams are led by guards known for their playmaking ability. Pressey was named SEC preseason player of the year while Siva earned Big East preseason player of the year honors.
The Missouri guard had 18 points and eight assists in a 78-70 victory over Stanford in Thursday’s quarterfinals. Pressey was clutch down the stretch as he scored four points and assisted on the other two in a game-ending 6-2 run.
Siva entered Thursday’s action tied for the NCAA lead with 9.0 assists per game. He was limited to one assist and only scored seven points on 3-of-12 shooting in a 51-46 victory over Northern Iowa on Thursday.
His coach knows who his senior leader is up against next.
“Playing against a great point guard, one of the premier players in the country,” Pitino said. “Peyton Siva didn’t play well tonight but he’ll play better tomorrow night.”
Pressey and Laurence Bowers are the only available Tigers who played for the team prior to this season, with Bowers missing last season with a torn knee ligament. Senior guard Michael Dixon also has prior experience, but he has been suspended by coach Frank Haith, although he has made the trip to the Bahamas.
One of the Missouri newcomers is a familiar face to Louisville – center Alex Oriakhi. The Connecticut transfer has averaged 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds in six career games against the Cardinals, with his Huskies losing five times.
The 6-foot-9 forward made 7 of 8 free throws and scored 13 points Thursday. He’s shooting a career-best 76.5 percent at the line.
“When you have your big men make free throws, that is key,” Pressey said. “When Alex makes his free throws and your guards, that is a given – they have to make their free throws, overall that just helps you out.”
Missouri is limiting opponents to 34.7 percent shooting.
The Tigers’ defense should pose a challenge for a Louisville team that was inept on offense Thursday. The Cardinals shot 30.6 percent – their worst effort in four seasons – and went 5:12 without points in one second-half stretch as an 18-point lead was cut to two.
“I thought we played very selfishly at the offensive end,” Pitino said. “Give them a lot of credit because they are a heckuva team.”
Russ Smith scored a game-high 16 points, including the deciding three-point play with 5.1 seconds left. Louisville had 12 assists to 20 turnovers.
“We played hard, but they made us look bad,” Pitino said.
Missouri has taken two of three all-time meetings with Louisville, winning 82-79 in the last one Nov. 25, 1989.
The winner will face No. 5 Duke or VCU in Saturday’s title game.