It's amazing that a team so well-known for their zone defense can struggle so mightily when the opponent plays zone against them. Syracuse couldn't figure out Louisville's zone as they struggled offensively all night. Louisville gets a much-needed win against the Orange, 66-60.
For the Orange, their 2-3 zone held Louisville to under 43 percent from the field. The zone forced them to jack up threes and they hit just nine of 30 attempts. The Orange also shut down the Cardinals' leading scorer, Samardo Samuels. He didn't score until 7:46 remaining in the game but then finished with eight points. All-in-all though, the defense was solid and definitely not the problem for Syracuse.
Lousiville's defense was better though and cause fits for the Orange. Syracuse shot a season-low 41.4 percent from the field and were held to 20 points below their average. In the beginning Syracuse went into the post and took a 10-2 lead with eight of those coming in the paint. When they moved the ball from the inside out they looked good but they went away from it in the second half. Too often the players on the perimeter held the ball and passed it back and forth until they were forced into a bad shot late in the shot clock. They abandoned the post game and relied on too many jumpshots.
Wesley Johnson looks nothing like an All-American right now. In his last three games since getting injured against Providence, he has hit just 10 of 35 shots and is averaging under 11 points per game. One of the knocks on Johnson earlier in the season was he was too unselfish - he didn't shoot enough. Against the Cardinals he took a season-high 20 shots but made just five of them. He hurt his thumb against Connecticut and Boeheim thought this was a big part of the problem. Syracuse needs him to get back on track quick.
Despite their offensive woes, the Orange were right in this game at the end. With 1:40 remaining, and Louisville leading by three, Jared Swopshire stepped to the line and missed the front end of a 1-and-1. But Mike Marra swooped in for the offensive rebound and moments later nailed a three-pointer to give the Cards a 62-56 lead. But Louisville allowed Syracuse back in the game. Joseph hit a couple free throws then Sosa missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and this time Syracuse grabbed the rebound. It led to a Joseph dunk and just like that it was 62-60. Syracuse pressed and forced a turnover as Rakeem Buckles tried a bounce pass along the baseline that hit out of bounds. But Wesley Johnson was defended well on an attempted reverse layup, Louisville grabbed the rebound and Kris Joseph went to foul in order to stop the clock and he was called for an intentional foul. It's one of the worst calls I've ever seen. He grabbed Smith's shoulder for about half a second and Smith fell backwards. There was no intent to harm the player but Tim Higgins called the intentional and that sealed it. It should've never come down to that and the chances are Syracuse wouldn't have won even if it was just called a foul - but it was a bad call.
The win was huge for the Cardinals who, even with this win are on the bubble for the tournament. For Syracuse, they now fall to second place in the Big East, a half game behind Villanova.Game Notes:
-Mookie Jones saw his first action in about a month. He played just over two minutes and looked fine on defense but a little lost on offense. He was setting up too far from the three-point line and seemed to get lost when he needed to rotate.