Make or Break?

After a bad 74-55 loss to St. John's Thursday night, Louisville dropped out of ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi's NCAA Tournament bracket. Still in search of a signature win, is Sunday's clash at third-ranked Syracuse a make or break game for the Cardinals?

Louisville plays its second straight in the state of New York as the Cardinals visit Syracuse on Sunday. Louisville fell 55-74 at St. John's on Thursday, losing by as wide of a margin as in its four other league losses combined (19). Samardo Samuels led the Cardinals with 18 points and six rebounds in the loss. Syracuse (24-1, 11-1), ranked 2nd in the AP poll and 3rd by ESPN/USA Today, has won its last 11 games, including a 72-67 victory over Connecticut at home in its last game on Wednesday.

About Syracuse

Syracuse (24-1, 11-1), ranked 2nd in the AP poll and 3rd by ESPN/USA Today, has won its last 11 games, including a 72-67 victory over Connecticut in its last game on Wednesday.

Syracuse leads the nation in field goal percentage (.527) and is among the nation's top ten in assists (2nd, 19.8), steals (4th, 10.6), scoring margin (5th, +17.4), blocked shots (7th, 7.0) and scoring offense (7th, 81.6).

One of the Cardinals' three repeat opponents this season, Syracuse is No. 2 in the ratings percentage index (RPI) and is No. 2 in the Sagarin Ratings through games of Feb. 11. Forward Wes Johnson paces the Orange (16.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg), which have seven players averaging over eight points.

Louisville leads the series 10-4 and has won the last four meetings. The Cardinals prevailed 67-57 in the Carrier Dome last season (1/25/09) and beat the Orange 76-66 to claim the BIG EAST Tournament championship in Madison Square Garden (3/14/09) as six Cardinals scored in double figures.

Pitino a Former Syracuse Assistant

U of L Coach Rick Pitino was an assistant coach for two seasons on Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim's first staff (1976-78). Pitino was interviewed and hired on his wedding night on April 3, 1976 by Boeheim. He then postponed his honeymoon to leave the following day to recruit Louis Orr, who later signed with the Orange. Syracuse posted a combined 48-10 record and reached the NCAA Tournament in the two years Pitino was an assistant there (26-4 in ‘76-77, 22-6 in ‘77-78). He left the Syracuse staff to become the head coach at Boston University in 1978, at the time as the youngest Division I head coach in the nation at the age of 25.

Pitino's teams have won seven of the last eight times he has faced Syracuse, including when his Kentucky team posted a 76-67 victory over the Orange in the 1996 NCAA Championship game in East Rutherford, N.J. (4/1/96).

Series vs. Syracuse

** Louisville has a 10-4 advantage over Syracuse in the series which began in 1964 and the Cards have won the last four.

** Louisville won both meetings last season. The Cardinals beat the Orange 76-66 to claim the BIG EAST Tournament championship in Madison Square Garden (3/14/09) as Samardo Samuels' 15 points led six Cards in double figures. After trailing 38-30 at halftime, U of L opened the second period with a 21-5 run and shot 60.9 percent in that half. Eric Devendorf led No. 18/20 SU with 20 points.

** Louisville won for the first time in four visits to the Carrier Dome last season as Earl Clark totaled 16 points, 13 rebounds and five assists to lead U of L to a 67-57 victory (1/ 25/09). After No. 8/8 Syracuse had taken a 55-54 lead with 3:03 remaining, Louisville closed the game with a 13-2 run. Syracuse made just two field goals over the last 13 minutes of the game. Louisville held Syracuse to 57 points and 35.3 percent shooting from the field, the Orange's second lowest efforts of the season. Eric Devendorf led SU with 20 points.

** Louisville beat Syracuse 96-88 in the consolation game of the 1975 NCAA Final Four in San Diego (3-31-75). The Cardinals had lost to eventual champion UCLA 75-74 in overtime in the national semifinals.

** U of L Coach Rick Pitino has a 7-7 record against Syracuse, including 4-1 while at Louisville. He was 0-5 against the Orange while at Providence, including falling 77-63 in the 1987 NCAA national semifinals in New Orleans, La. (3/28/87). Pitino's Kentucky teams were 3-1 vs. Syracuse, including a 76-67 victory over the Orange in the 1996 NCAA Championship game in East Rutherford, N.J.(4-1-96)

From UofL Sports Information


Cardinal Authority Top Stories