Game Notes: Louisville at Syracuse
No valentines for the Orange.
by Rachel Stern
Jim Boeheim saw this coming.
He knew his Syracuse team was about to face its toughest stretch of the season. He also knew his No. 3-ranked squad was not playing its best basketball. After the Orange squeaked out a win against Connecticut on Wednesday, Boeheim expressed concerns about the final portion of the regular season.
“I feel this starts our toughest stretch,” said Boeheim in his press conference following a five-point win against UConn. “Louisville is a very good team. We have a lot of tough games left. We have a very difficult stretch of games ahead of us. Probably the toughest of all this year.”
Turns out the 34 year head coach knows a thing or two. His Orange shot a season-low 41.4 percent from the floor and scored their second lowest total of the year in a 66-60 loss to Louisville at the Carrier Dome on Valentine’s Day. The season’s largest on campus crowd of 31,053 witnessed the second loss of the season for the Orange.
Despite getting off to a rough shooting start, in which the Cardinals only hit four of their first 14 attempts, their tough, scrappy 3-2 matchup zone thwarted an Orange offensive attack that entered the game shooting an NCAA leading 53 percent from the field.
Boeheim revisited his premonition after Sunday’s loss.
“I thought for the last few games against DePaul, even stretches of the Providence game, Cincinnati and the Connecticut game, I thought we didn’t play at a high level,” Boeheim said. “You can’t be in all these games and get down to the end and think you’re going to win.”
Kris Joseph appears to be in the Valentine’s Day spirit. About 90 minutes to tip-off he hands a Syracuse employee a candy rose.
Former Syracuse forward Donte Greene is in the house. The Sacramento Kings starter is taking advantage of the All-Star break and is lounging on the Syracuse bench before the game.
Louisville big man Samardo Samuels is huge. At 6-9, 260 pounds he shows some range during warm-ups. Samuels hits a couple deep jumpers, but looks much better when he is throwing it down. Samuels has put up five double-doubles this season and could cause problems for the Syracuse big men down low.
Louisville freshman guard Peyton Siva is lightening quick. The Seattle native shows he can shoot too, as he hits pull up after pull up. In the last five games Siva is shooting 73.6 percent and has gone 8-11 from beyond the arc.
Kris Joseph signs autographs for a slew of young Syracuse fans behind the Syracuse basket. Then, before the Orange head to the locker room he gives the fans a show by hoisting a handful of three-quarter court shots. Each time he misses the crowd gives a collective sigh.
The Syracuse band plays a rather impressive rendition of the SportsCenter theme song.
The Orange gather around big man Arinze Onuaku with 1:14 left before tip off. They jump up and down as the fifth-year senior pumps his team up.
Pitino has changed up his starting lineup after an embarrassing 19-point loss to St. John’s. Preston Knowles, Edgar Sosa, Jerry Smith, Terrence Jennings and Samardo Samuels get the start. Reginald Delk is out with an injury and Jared Swopshire has been knocked from the starting lineup.
After a Brandon Triche missed three pointer and an Edgar Sosa missed three ball, Syracuse’s Rick Jackson registers the games first points on a nice post move. He catches the ball from Wes Johnson and goes left. He spins back right and finishes with a soft hook shot.
The Orange clearly are trying to get their big men going early on. Onuaku buries Jennings deep in the paint and puts up an easy two on the right side on the feed from Andy Rautins. Rick Jackson collects an offensive board off another Triche miss and gets fouled. He misses both free throws, but Syracuse appears to have an advantage inside early on.
After Samuels forces a missed shot, he commits a frustration foul in the backcourt for his second foul. Five minutes into the game the Cardinals are struggling on the offensive end and are down 6-2. They are struggling against the zone and have clanged a bunch of shots off the rim. Louisville is 1-7 from the floor and 0-4 from beyond the arc.
After two more buckets by the Syracuse bigs, Pitino calls a timeout and gets in freshman guard Mike Marra’s face. Syracuse is up 10-2 with 13:44 to play in the first half.
It looks like Swopshire got the message after being scratched from the starting lineup. He comes in and makes an instant impact. He drives nicely and kicks to Sosa for a three, then cans a three of his own from the right corner. After another Sosa bucket, the Cardinals are getting something going and are down 14-10 with 11:24 to play.
The Syracuse student section continues their obsession with big heads. Today, Rautins, Kris Joseph and Boeheim make appearances in cardboard form.
With nine minutes to play, Pitino puts on the famous Louisville full-court press.
Mookie Jones makes a rare appearance for the Orange. The redshirt freshman from Peekskill, N.Y. wastes no time as he jacks up a three from the right corner. The shot is blocked but Jones bounces back and gets a steal and pushes it to Scoop Jardine who finishes in transition. Pitino is furious on the sideline, as he Cardinals are down by nine with 8:28 to play.
With 6:19 to play, Terrence Jennings throws down a slam on a nice high-low feed from Rakeem Buckles. Despite being 5-20 from the floor and 3-13 from three-point range Louisville is only down six with 6:19 to go until the half.
There goes Jones, as Boeheim pulls him with six minutes to go.
Syracuse is doing a good job of handling the Louisville press. They are slowing down and drawing the defense, then passing over top to a guard on the opposite side. Though Louisville is not as aggressive as they sometimes are in the press, the pressure is forcing Syracuse to get into their half court sets much later in the shot clock.
A quick Louisville 10-4 spurt has put them within three with 4:41 to play. They have grabbed seven offensive boards and have converted on numerous second chance opportunities.
Wes Johnson does not look himself. He is 2-7 from the floor and has struggled since his ugly fall against Providence on Feb. 2. He also injured the thumb on his right hand against UConn, something that certainly could be affecting his shooting motion.
After Sosa misses a three from straight on, Swopshire tips it up and in. After Jennings blocks a Jardine jumper, Marra buries a three off a nice drive and kick from Sosa. Louisville has its first lead of the game, as they go up 28-27 with 1:36 to play until the half.
Louisville has extended its 3-2 match up zone. Senior guard Jerry Smith is pressuring Jardine up top. Jardine handles it though, and hits a tough floater off the glass in the lane.
Syracuse heads into the break up 29-28.
Louisville has done a good job storming back after a rough start. Sosa has seven points and three assists. Swopshire has really done a solid job off the bench after getting scratched from the starting lineup. He has eight points and four boards, three of which were on the offensive end. Off the bench Marra has chipped in six points, going 2-5 from beyond the arc.
After a terrible shooting performance to start the game, the Cardinals are 11-29 from the floor and 5-18 from three-point range. They are shooting 37.9 percent from the floor.
Louisville has corralled nine offensive boards, which has sparked the comeback, as they have not only managed to get the boards, but have converted on most opportunities.
Samuels has two fouls at the half and has not scored.
For the Orange, the big men have been their go-to option in the first half. Onuaku has 6 points, 4 boards, 2 steals and a block.
Rautins has six points and two assists, but has been hounded by Louisville defenders everywhere he goes. Teams have really given Rautins a lot of attention in Big East play, almost always assigning one guy to follow him around.
Johnson has 5 points, 5 boards and 3 assists, but has struggled from the floor. Off the bench, Jardine has chipped in with six points.
The Louisville press has forced Syracuse to really slow down the game. The Orange normally rely on a potent transition game, in which the guards at the top of their zone defense leak out after an opponent’s missed shot. The press, though not creating steals, has limited Syracuse’s opportunities in transition and has slowed down their offensive attack.
Swopshire replaces Jennings in the starting line up for the second half for the Cardinals.
Sosa shakes his defender with a nice cross over and drives down the left side of the lane for the easy lay in. The New York City native has struggled at times in his career with careless turnovers and poor decision-making. Today, Sosa is anything but that, as he has really controlled the game for the Cardinals and made all the right decisions.
Boeheim pulls freshman point guard Brandon Triche just four minutes into the second half. Triche has struggled not only all game, but the last few games for the Orange. He is scoreless today and has missed a couple wide-open three pointers. Jardine replaces him with the game tied at 35.
After Onuaku tips in a Kris Joseph miss, the crowd finally comes alive. Despite being the largest on campus crowd of the season, they have been relatively quiet all game. The game is tied at 37 with 15 minutes to play.
Samuels is still scoreless for the Cardinals, while Syracuse big man Onuaku has 10 points and 7 boards. Rick Jackson has also chipped in with seven points.
After a Sosa three-ball and two straight Syracuse turnovers, with 11:56 to play and Louisville up by three, Boeheim is not happy and calls a timeout.
It looks like the timeout worked, as Rautins comes in and hits two consecutive three pointers to get the crowd back into it. The fans go absolutely crazy for the first time all day. This is the first time the Cardinals let Rautins get free in transition and he makes them pay. Syracuse regains the lead, 45-42, with 10:45 to play.
After a Syracuse steal, Jardine commits a bad turnover to kill the Syracuse momentum. From the top of the key, he rifles a pass to the scouts sitting behind the Syracuse basket. Boeheim stares his point guard down as the Orange get back on defense.
Preston Knowles chucks up a tough shot in the lane but gets bailed out by the referee who calls a foul. Boeheim is livid and stands on the sideline with his hands in the air yelling at the referee from the sideline.
At the 7:35 mark, Samuels hits two free throws, converting his first points of the day. After Jardine gets called for an offensive foul in the backcourt against the press, Marra cans a three from the left corner and Syracuse calls a timeout. Louisville is up 53-50 with 6:20 to go.
There is still no sign of Brandon Triche, as Jardine has been handling the pressure from the Cardinals. Samuels hits a tough bucket in the lane, despite appearing to have shuffled his feet. The crowd is furious at referee Tim Higgins. The Cardinals are up three with five minutes to play and Syracuse is really struggling to score.
After the pressure from Louisville forces Johnson to chuck up a desperation shot with two seconds remaining on the shot clock, it is Jerry Smith who has really made an impact on the defensive end for the Cardinals. The senior guard is playing tremendous on the ball defense and making things difficult for Jardine.
With Pitino’s squad up by five with 3:05 to play, it is the loose balls that have helped Louisville maintain the lead. Samuels and freshman Rakeem Buckles have been active on the offensive glass giving their team extra opportunities.
Out of a Louisville timeout, Pitino’s coaching genius is on full display. Right out of the timeout, Edgar Sosa inbounds the ball under the Cardinal basket. He lofts it up to Samuels who throws it down, igniting the Louisville bench and putting the team up by seven with 2:53 to play. Pitino drew it up perfectly.
After Johnson hits two clutch free throws to pull Syracuse to within three with 2:13 to play, Swopshire catches it in the middle of the paint and kicks it to Marra, who cans a huge three from the left corner right in front of the Louisville bench. His three ball puts the Cardinals up six with a minute to play.
Syracuse puts their press on, but Sosa and the Cardinals handle it. Sosa pulls it out and Rautins is forced to foul him with 45.7 seconds to play. Sosa misses the front end of the one and one off the front rim.
Syracuse has life. But Jardine forces up an unnecessary three ball. Johnson gathers the rebound, but it is blocked by Buckles and sails out of bounds. Joseph catches the inbounds pass and drives it hard to the rim for the two-handed flush.
Louisville inbounds the ball against the Syracuse press, up by two with 31.9 seconds to play. Buckles throws a bounce pass across the baseline, but it bounces out of bounds. The Dome erupts and Syracuse has a chance.
After a Syracuse timeout, Jardine gets the ball to Johnson, who finds the slower Samuels trying to contain him. Johnson drives baseline from the right corner and attempts a reverse lay up, but it grazes off the bottom of the backboard. Jerry Smith secures the board and Higgins calls a questionable intentional foul on Joseph.
Boeheim is absolutely livid and the crowd is furious. Smith hits both free throws and after Syracuse misses a pair of desperation threes, Buckles races down court and dunks it home for the exclamation point.
Final score, 66-60 Louisville.
Boeheim on the intentional foul call: “It was right in front of me. He hit him in the shoulder and went for the ball and hit him. He didn’t grab him it wasn’t intentional.”
Boeheim on Brandon Triche: “He’s struggled. His finger hurts a little bit on his shooting hand, but he has struggled. We’d like to see him get going again.”
Rick Pitino on the way the city of Syracuse is expected to react: “What is this Kentucky of the north? Syracuse is a great ball club and Jim will take this game and they will learn from the mistakes. The University of Louisville is not chopped liver so the fans should not roll in the snow and get really cold. They should just relax and have a little vino and just relax because they are a great basketball team having a great season.”
Key statistic of the game: Though Syracuse had 19 offensive boards and Louisville had 18, the Cardinals managed to score 22 points off second opportunities compared to just 12 points for the Orange.
Wes Johnson finished the game with 14 points, but went just 5-20 from the floor.