Louisville Slugged

The Syracuse University men's basketball team wasted an opportunity to register a road win against the Louisville Cardinals, squandering a 14 point second half lead and going 1-14 from the field over the last 9:42 of the game en route to a 76-71 loss. Louisville closed the game on a 25-6 run that erased a double-digit Syracuse lead and gave the home team a largely undeserved win.

Saturday's contest was hall of fame coach Jim Boeheim's 1,000 career game as head coach of his alma mater. Boeheim is only the 7th head coach in NCAA history to coach at least 1,000 games at a single institution. The 15-5 Orange were coming off a poorly played loss to conference rival St. John's on Sunday, and the SU players demonstrated the same poor execution in the second half of the Louisville game, allowing the home team to spoil Boeheim's milestone game.

Syracuse came out of the gate sharp, scoring the game's first six points en route to an early 6-0 lead, but the Cardinal countered with a quick 5-0 run that closed the gap to a single point at the 17:23 mark.

Although neither team shot the ball well, Syracuse registered three players [Devendorf, Roberts, Nichols] in double digits in the first half, en route to a 42-38 halftime lead. On the opposite bench, Edgar Sosa was able to keep the game close, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the first half.

The Orange came out of the locker room with gusto, quickly extending their lead in the second half. Shooting guard Andy Rautins buried a trio of quick shots, registering all 7 of his points in the first five minutes of the second half. Nichols was also hot in the early going, nailing a pair of shots as the Orange built a seemingly insurmountable 2nd half cushion.

Boeheim seemed well on his way to enjoying his 1,000th game in style, but the game's tide turned at the 7:51 mark when senior center Darryl Watkins picked up his 4th foul. Boeheim elected to make a curious substitution, inserting wing forward Paul Harris into the game in lieu of senior power forward Matt Gorman.

Unfortunately, the smaller Syracuse lineup played to Louisville's strengths, as junior forward Juan Palacios—who had been scoreless through the game's first 32 minutes—suddenly got in rhythm, scoring all 9 of his points in rapid succession during a decisive 25-6 Louisville run that erased the Syracuse lead.

Boeheim repeatedly called timeouts, hoping to restore a semblance of poise to his team's play, but the Orange faltered down the stretch behind a deluge of poor execution. A pair of Terrance Williams three point shots gave the Cardinal a 73-68 lead with 1:46 to go in the game, and Syracuse was unable to effectively respond. The Orange missed several shots at the end of the game, and amazingly registered their FIRST field goal of the last 9:45 when Eric Devendorf made a driving layup with 7 seconds to go.

The Cardinal extended their lead by making some free throws down the stretch, which the offensively inept Orange were not able to counter.

Saturday's game represents a significant missed opportunity for the Orange. Coming off of an unacceptable loss to St. John's on Sunday, the Orange needed to bounce back against Louisville in order to keep pace with Big East conference opponents like Marquette and Georgetown, both of whom won on Saturday.

The loss drops Syracuse from 2nd place into a three way tie for 4th place in the Big East standings [with West Virginia and Providence]. Had the Orange managed to pull out these two winnable games, they would be within a ½ game of conference leading Pitt in the standings.

Next up for the Orange: Tuesday [7:00PM EST] against Notre Dame in the Carrier Dome.

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