After an exciting, buzzer beating victory over Duke, the Orange traveled to Kentucky to take on the Louisville Cardinals. The Orange were looking for revenge after the heart-breaking overtime loss that they suffered from the Cardinals at home on February 13th. Unfortunately, that was not the case as Louisville ran over Syracuse with an 88-68 victory.
Louisville dominated from the very beginning. The Cardinals began the game on an impressive 11-2 run which saw them completely shut down Syracuse’s offense. It wasn’t until the 14:20 mark that the Orange made their first basket (a Tyus Battle 3). Things seemed to change a bit after that first bucket as Syracuse went on a 15-2 run of their own to take a 17-13 lead. However, this is where things took a turn for the worse for the Orange. Louisville retook the lead with 8:45 left in the first and never looked back. The Cards were almost automatic from the field from then on, hitting 7 consecutive shots and ending the half on a 28-8 run. At the half, they led Syracuse 41-25.
Unlike many of the other games this season, the second half was not much better for the Orange. The offense began to click as they shot 41% in the second half opposed to 28% in the first, but it would not prove to be nearly enough as the Cardinals continued to shine and ended up with a 20-point victory.
This wide margin of victory can be attributed to two things: Louisville’s incredible play and the lack of production from John Gillon and Andrew White.
As one of the better teams in the NCAA, Louisville completely dominated Syracuse. They effectively ripped apart the 2-3 zone by using high, on-ball screens and a very fast paced offense. By using screens and running a fast offense, the Cardinals did not allow the Orange to effectively set up their zone. Without a chance to set up the zone, Syracuse didn’t stand a chance against Louisville’s talented offense. That offense was led by sophomore guard Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell, who has been on fire throughout conference play, continued his hot streak against Syracuse. Mitchell finished the game shooting 9-16 from the field, including 6-10 from three, for 25 points. He also impressed with an incredible, highlight reel one handed alley-oop slam. Ray Spalding was also incredibly efficient for the Cardinals, adding 18 points and 11 rebounds of his own.
The high scoring Louisville offense was expected going into this game but what was not expected was the poor play of Syracuse’s John Gillon and Andrew White. Gillon, who was the hero in the win over Duke, was held to just 10 points in the game, all of which came in the second half. Once again, he seemed timid in the first half, taking only one shot. The Orange’s leading scorer, Andrew White, was also held scoreless in the first half. His first basket did not come until 9:05 left in the game and at that point the deficit was just too large to come back from. White, who averages over 17 points per game, finished with just 7. It was not all bad offensively for the Orange on Sunday as Tyler Lydon and Tyus Battle both had excellent games. Battle finished with 20 points and Lydon added 17 points and 11 rebounds.
As many of the games this season have shown, when Gillon and White struggle, it is very difficult for Syracuse to win the game. If the Orange want to continue winning and earn a bid into the NCAA Tournament Gillon and White cannot have games like they did on Sunday.
Syracuse finishes their regular season this Saturday at home against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at 4:00pm.