The Syracuse Orange, the best team in the NCAA, lost against the Louisville Cardinals this Sunday 78-68. It was the team's final game in Freedom Hall; subsequent games will be played at a new court downtime. This is the second time this season the Orange have lost against the Cardinals. The first time was just a few weeks ago, on February 14th, 66-60. These two losses are only two of Syracuse's three losses aE" total aE" this season. The team won the Big East regular season title early this past week and is likely to be the first seed in the NCAA tournament. With this victory, the Cardinals also look likely to find a spot in the tournament. Both teams entered the first half aggressively, although the Orange were scoring a bit better in field goal, shooting for 51.7% while the Cardinals were only at 35.3%. Unsurprisingly, then, Syracuse took an early lead with 6:30 left in the half. Rick Jackson had scored off of an assist from Scoop Jardine, putting the score 21-20. Minutes later, the lead was extended to 8 points with a three-point shot and a layup from Jardine, moving the scoreboard to 35-27. And with just 3 seconds before the end of the half, Egdar Sosa scored for Louisville to make it 35-30.Both teams started the second half cold, together combining zero points over the opening three minutes.
Abruptly, however, the Cardinals came to life with a 10-2 run in a four-minute stretch, taking control of the game. Syracuse cute the Cardinals' lead to just five points, 66-61, after Onuaku made a shot with 5:20 left to play. The Cardinals may not have needed a savior, but they got one in the form of Kyle Kuric. He came off the bench to lead with 22 points, including 4 three-pointers in the second half. Despite the Orange's effort, their poor shooting was evident, and Kuric's performance was so strong that he pushed the Louisville into an assured victory, 78-68. At the end of the game, Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim praised the efforts of his players even when their scoring inside the paint became weak from the Cardinals' much-improved defense in the second half. He also gave credit to the Louisville's offense, which knew how to counterattack the Orange's zone defense and make use of rebounds.Sometimes in this league it just comes down to matchups.
Louisville's a zone team, they practice against it everyday, and they're the best team in the league against our zone. That's what we do well; rebound the ball. I thought Louisville just went after it harder and did a better job on the boards than we did," said Boeheim. Syracuse forward Wes Johnson stated that his team lost control of the game in the second half; the players had become a little desperate when they realized they couldn't score. aEoeI think we lost our composure in the second half a lot more than in the first half. It got loud and after that I think we just lost our composure, and that's something we rarely do and we did today,aE?????? said Johnson.