The Orange had a long time to think about what went wrong in its ugly loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. Now the players will be scratching their heads wondering what went wrong against the Cardinals.
Once again, the Orange could not get the upper hand early in the game. The Cardinals scored five points in a row to take a 7-2 lead and then minutes later did that again to go up 14-6 about five and half minutes into the contest.
The ‘Cuse would wake up, but only for a couple possessions as it cut the deficit to three. The lead for Louisville hovered in single digits, but the Cards pushed their advantage to ten after a layup by forward Earl Clark.
By halftime, Syracuse somehow only trailed 38-33. SU was lucky to be down by only a handful of points as Louisville outhustled the Orange on the glass. The Cards outrebounded them by nine and looked like they just wanted it more. The one good performance for the Orange came from guard Eric Devendorf. The junior scored 10 points and dished out three assists.
The Orange finally showed some signs of life coming out of the break. After a Louisville basket made the lead seven, Syracuse put together a 9-0 scoring run to take the lead. Point guard Jonny Flynn scored the final four points of the run to put some energy into the Carrier Dome. Unfortunately though, half of Syracuse's made baskets came in that scoring streak.
The entire second half was low scoring as both teams went cold from the field and the officials made some absolutely terrible calls on both sides. After about seven minutes of play, Louisville had only scored six points. But SU could not take advantage as the game was tied at 44 apiece.
After two free throws put SU up by a deuce, the Cards responded by going on a 7-0 run which included two trifectas. But Syracuse matched that by scoring the next seven points including a three-pointer from Devendorf. That would be the last basket for the Orange though, and there was still three minutes left on the clock.
The Cardinals ended the game on a 13-2 run that put the Orange away. It was a dreadful second half for SU as it blew a number of chances to take control of the game. The Orange will certainly be thinking about this loss for a while.
Some other observations from Syracuse's 67-57 loss to Louisville:
· As I alluded to earlier, both teams struggled mightily in the second half. SU's defense was pretty good, holding Louisville to only 29 points on 31 percent shooting. But the Orange was absolutely dreadful as it couldn't buy a bucket. Syracuse made only six shots on 22 attempts (27.3 percent) and allowed Louisville to grab 21 offensive rebounds. When SU needed to make a stop or score a basket, Louisville would not let it happen.
· The key sequence in the second half came during SU's 7-0 run with a little more than seven minutes remaining. With the score 54-52 in favor of Louisville, Syracuse had a number of opportunities to take the lead and build on it. But in a three minute stretch where neither team scored, SU missed two shots and turned the ball over twice. Both turnovers were a result of offensive fouls charged to Devendorf. The calls came on consecutive possessions as well. The 25,721 in attendance were absolutely livid. Not much of a surprise though when Jim Burr is in the building. When you know an official's name, it's never a good thing.
· Another important event happened during that scoring run for the Orange. And it wasn't good news at all. Guard Andy Rautins hobbled on his left leg and collapsed to the floor holding onto his right foot. You could hear a pin drop as soon as Rautins went down. Head coach Jim Boeheim did not address the injury in his post-game press conference, but it appears Rautins twisted and sprained his right ankle.
· Devendorf led the way in scoring with 20 points. Center Arinze Onuaku had 11 points and nine rebounds, but he seems to disappear from the offense for long stretches. Flynn dropped in 12 points, but it comes on another poor shooting night. The sophomore was 3-of-12 from the floor, that coming on the heels of a 3-of-14 performance at Pitt. Too many times Flynn drove to the basket only looking to score instead of keeping his head up and looking for an open man. Flynn is having a difficult time and he needs to get back to what makes him such a great player. And that is his ability to drive, draw defenders, and dish it off. Instead, he's going for heavily contested layups and runners. As Jonny Flynn goes, so do the Orange.
Syracuse (17-4, 5-3 Big East) ranked eighth in the nation, tries to bounce back from two consecutive losses as it travels to Providence to take on the Friars. That game is on Wednesday with a 7 p.m. tip-off.