The last time Louisville battled Syracuse, the Cardinals were ranked No. 1 in the nation, but they folded down the stretch as the Orange bullied them. This time, Rick Pitino‘s team withstood a furious comeback and showed their toughness in the second half, even as things were not going their way. Going into the Carrier Dome can be tough on visiting teams, but the Cardinal had the grit to grind out a key win.
Once again, Peyton Siva struggled against Syracuse’s zone defense, but unlike earlier this season, it did not cost his team a win. That is the development of the toughness on this team through the course of the season.
Transfer Luke Hancock did his former coach, Jim Laranaga, proud by giving his new team the toughness they need off the bench. When his team needed him the most, Hancock knocked down key 3-pointers, and helped create key turnovers. Russ Smith add the finishing touches offensively down the stretch by finishing around the rim amongst much bigger players and making vital free throws.
Louisville’s defense is the all about making teams uncomfortable. Everything from the switching in the half court, the extended pressure when needed, and the refusal to give up open shots make their match up zone a nightmare for whoever they play.
With aggressiveness in the form of Smith applying pressure out front, the length of Gorgui Dieng protecting the middle, and the dirty work being taken care of by Chane Behanan and Stephan Van Treese, the Cardinals posses all the ingredients to being an effective defense.
Their relentlessness on both ends of the floor wears down teams, and the grind of March Madness will not find the Louisville Cardinals holding back.