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Syracuse’s NCAA Tournament hopes end with 90-66 loss to Louisville

first_img Published on February 19, 2020 at 9:15 pm Contact Nick: nialvare@syr.edu | @nick_a_alvarez LOUISVILLE, Ky. — In their lockers, Syracuse players talked in a low murmur. Some pulled their hoods over their heads. For months they had played like a team trying to put it all together. Then they tried again for 40 more minutes. But in that second half, the SU press failed, the bench emptied and the score ballooned. Louisville forced the Orange to reconcile their long-term hopes with a daunting reality. “I wish we were better,” Orange head coach Jim Boeheim said. “I wish we were doing something wrong that we can correct. But we’re just not quite good enough.” Clinging to a postseason dream, Syracuse (14-12, 7-8 Atlantic Coast) was steamrolled by No. 11 Louisville (22-5, 13-3), 90-66, on Wednesday night. Keeping in line with seasons norms, SU made it competitive in the first half. They cut into multiple double-digit leads and strung together enough defensive stops to make nervous the Cardinals fans encircling the court. But offensive turnovers and leaky high-post defense quashed another SU upset bid. Louisville totaled more points in the paint (30 to 24), rebounds (45 to 36) and assists (23 to 11) than the Orange. The Cardinals benefited from tactical (inserting 3-point shooter Ryan McMahon into the starting lineup) and schematic changes (continuously running a high-low game in the paint). The Cardinals thrilled from 3 and rode a tension-less final 20 minutes to end its own two-game slide. AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“The disappointment was our defensive breakdown in the second half.” Boeheim said. “We just didn’t have it tonight. “Cardinals’ shooters quickly found the 3-point stroke they’d lost in past games. After going a combined 9-for-51 in two losses, they converted 10 against the Orange. McMahon hit four 3s in the first half, each pushing Louisville further ahead. They mainly fed Jordan Nwora and Dwayne Sutton in the 2-3 zone’s soft spot. They were met with little resistance, whipping the ball across the arc or baseline for a dump-off. Sutton, who finished with three 3s, had converted less than one deep ball per contest. After Sutton rose and cashed Louisville’s first of the game, Buddy Boeheim was shocked, the latter said. The Orange thought he was only a high-post threat. It created more offense. After repeated possessions looking for a 3, the Cardinals went over the zone to Malik Williams. When SU defenders fanned out to shooters and denied backdoor cuts, Nwora rose for mid-range jumpers. Nwora scored a team-high 17 points after he managed seven total points over the last two games.Meanwhile, Syracuse developed a turnover problem against one of the worst turnover-producing teams in the country. Joseph Girard III threw two passes away early, and rotational guard Howard Washington checked in much earlier than usual. Hughes pressed, too, as he twice overshot Marek Dolezaj for what would’ve been layups. Buddy said SU took too many quick shots against Louisville’s press. “Especially when they were pressuring,” Boeheim said, “We couldn’t get by and make the play.” Courtesy of Dennis Nett | Syracuse.comFollowing the second turnover, Hughes bent at the waist and slouched before getting back on defense.SU converted five 3s in the first half but just two in the second. Cardinals defenders started doubling Buddy when he received the ball, he said, and triggered dump-off passes. Hughes and Girard couldn’t find the mark either (3-for-12 from 3). “I feel like we should be more ahead,” one Louisville fan in a black sweater told another when the halftime buzzer sounded, the Cardinals ahead by seven. They’d be appeased.Louisville’s offensive game plan didn’t appear to change. It just grew more potent. Syracuse’s offensive spurts paled whenever the defense couldn’t get the ensuing stop. The Cardinals kept it simple: pass to an open white jersey in the paint or around the arc. They went on a 14-2 run over a 2:18 stretch in the second half with dunks, 3-pointers and free throws. They led by 17. Then 19. Louisville ran the same high-low screen game in the paint, and SU didn’t have an answer. Sidibe and Dolezaj fouled out midway through the second half. Freshman Jesse Edwards didn’t fare much better. The 3s and dunks poured in and red-clad fans quickly trekked to the exits. As one walked out they said to no one particular, “We could get 1,000 (points) under the basket.” “It was a couple things (that went wrong),” Hughes said. “… In the second half we let them get dunk after dunk after dunk. We got to hold that down there. We have to stick to our principles.” SU now has a 1-4 record against ranked opponents with none others scheduled. It can finish the regular season with, at most, 19 wins — a number historically unsatisfactory for a berth. And now it’s facing its second three-game losing streak of the campaign. With the loss, the Orange’s season-long quest to the NCAA Tournament likely concluded Wednesday night. Not with a bang, but with a whimper on national television. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more