Syracuse walked out of Louisville with a 70-68 victory after a back and forth battle seeing neither team ever truly take control of the game.
The game featured numerous significant individual performances but none were greater than the duel between Russ Smith and Brandon Triche. Louisville’s Smith led all scorers with 25 points while showing off his defensive presence by picking up four steals. Triche had one of the best games of season after going 5-7 from downtown to record 23 points, along with six rebounds.
Smith showed the conference’s third leading scorer can’t be slowed down by Syracuse’s zone, while Triche stepped up in a big way in the absence of James Southerland. The two guards grabbed the attention of the box score but they are far from the game’s only story.
Michael Carter-Williams grew up through the course of the game after struggling early on and finishing by putting on a show at both ends of the floor. The nation’s leader in assists couldn’t hold onto the ball against Louisville early and finished with eight turnovers. However, he picked up his performance in the second half to deliver 16 points, seven assists, four rebounds, four steals and two blocks in the win. Without Carter-Williams’ defense late in the game, there’s no chance the Orange upset the Cardinals.
Despite the loss, Louisville still showed why they are one of the nation’s top tops thanks to the performance from interior presences. Gorgui Dieng continues to look good after returning from injury by delivering four points, eight rebounds, six assists and five blocks in the loss. Meanwhile, Chane Behanan just missed out on double-double with nine points, 11 rebounds and four steals.
Unfortunately, one player for the Cardinals that didn’t have his best performance was Peyton Siva. He finished with only three points to go along with six assists. Siva shot 1 for 9 from the floor in the game, and in a two point loss those kind of numbers stand out big time. Siva wasn’t the only key player to struggle from the field against the Orange, combined with Dieng and Behanan, the trio shot only 5 for 22. Not the type of effort the Cardinals will likely repeat when the two teams face off in the rematch on Mar. 2.
Syracuse pulled off the upset with great defense and strong play from their backcourt. However, Louisville’s key players aren’t going to shoot poorly twice after losing their number one ranking.
Advantage Orange for now, but all this contest proved was the Big East has two of the nation’s top teams. It’s too bad college basketball doesn’t have the seven-game series playoff format, because who wouldn’t want to see these two schools play over and over after this game.