0 Comments Published on 1.20.2013 by John Brennan
It's no secret in the legal community here in Elmira that I'm a huge Syracuse fan. On Friday, many of the people in the courts were asking me about Syracuse's chances playing at #1 Louisville on Saturday. "I'm certainly not expecting an Orange win, especially without James Southerland," I would say, "but this is College Basketball. You just never know." And I assume this was the attitude of most Syracuse fans. All the signs pointed to an imminent loss: playing the country's #1 on their home court; no James Southerland; recent struggles in beating inferior opponents; an opponent who plays zone and knows how to exploit it; I could go on and on. But we're still all Syracuse fans, and we all always hold out just some bit of hope that even facing a mountain of evidence to the contrary, there's always a chance this team could pull off the impossible and win. This Orange team did just that on Saturday afternoon at the KFC Yum! Center, beating the Louisville Cardinals 70-68.
- Top billing goes to Brandon Triche, despite what happened down the stretch (we'll get to that later). Triche had a perfect -- yes, perfect -- first half. He cooled off significantly -- almost to the point of irrelevancy -- in the second half, but still had outstanding final stats: 23 points on 9-13 shooting (5-7 from three), six rebounds, and two assists in 38 minutes of play.
- Syracuse was off to a hot start in this game (I know, right?) and Brandon was a huge part of that. He was finding lanes to drive to the basket, shot the mid-range jumper with confidence, and chucked threes with ice in his veins. Louisville battled back after its own slow start, and the game continued to be a game of runs with each team trading the lead, but many of those Syracuse runs were sparked by Triche.
- And it's good he was playing the way he was, because the rest of Syracuse was pretty much just running around letting things happen. Unfortunately for Michael Carter-Williams, that meant turning over the ball. A lot. Early and often. Of course, to the great ire of Orange Nation. Jim Boeheim smartly benched MCW in the first half for a couple minutes when it was clear he was in a great funk. In total, MCW had eight turnovers in the game.
- MCW's eight turnovers accounted for half of the team's turnovers. Never a good stat no matter who you're playing, but it hurt even more against a team like Louisville, which thrives on creating turnovers and scoring points off those turnovers. Against the Orange on Saturday, the Cardinals scored 21 points off turnovers. Ouch.
- And so, how did Syracuse not only stay in this game, but win it? Redemption Man: Michael Carter-Williams. Boeheim had the confidence in MCW to send him back out there and stick with him, knowing Michael had the attitude at halftime of leaving the first half in the past, and going out there and playing a new half with a fresh slate.
- And he did. It wasn't perfect, but MCW was a new man in the second half. Once it became clear that Brandon had cooled off and wouldn't have the success he had in the first half, someone for Syracuse needed to step up. For a while, nobody wanted that responsibility. But eventually, MCW took it. He scored 11 of the team's final 13 points, and had an assist to account for the other two. His final stat line: 16 points (4-13 shooting, 2-7 from three, and an encouraging 6-8 from the line), seven assists, four steals, and two blocks.
- Specifically, it was MCW's steal with 24 seconds left, and fastbreak down the floor for a huge slam to put Syracuse up 69-68 that not only changed the momentum of the game, but gave Syracuse a lead it would not relinquish. He followed that up with a steal off a Gorgui Dieng turnover under the Louisville basket with five seconds left that clinched it for the Orange.
- CJ Fair had another relatively quiet game playing all 40 minutes: ten points, eight rebounds, and several missed opportunities to step up and take over this team. I was calling for it several times, but evidently he never heard me.
- In James Southerland's absence, we have seen the emergence of Jerami Grant as a big time player. The kid's one of the most athletic guys on the court, and has the skills to make the plays. He's taking full advantage of his increased playing time: in 35 minutes, Grant had ten points and five rebounds. He's understanding his role in the zone, and making his presence known even if that doesn't translate into the box score.
- With Dajuan Coleman still being a virtual non-factor, Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Keita had to step up in the big man role. If you really want to identify a weakness in this year's Orange squad, this is it. We're very rarely seeing the production out of this position you'd like to see. Christmas is getting good position on the boards, and that's where he'll light up the stat sheet; but he leaves a lot to be desired on the offensive end, and he still seems to struggle in the zone. Keita plays with intensity on both ends of the court, but is still too inconsistent to rely on for serious minutes.
- Trevor Cooney had four token minutes and scored a bucket.
- Louisville is a very, very good team. Certainly deserving of the #1 ranking it brought into the game. The Cardinals play a very intense game; its zone is active, traps and forces turnovers. And they're fast. Led by big playmakers Russ Smith and Peyton Siva, this team certainly has the skills and talent to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
- Smith led the way for Louisville with 25 points; he was the only double digit scorer for the Cards who, though the rest of the team scoring was pretty balanced, really needed someone else to stand up and make offensive plays. Syracuse held Siva to just three points.
- Dieng is a hell of a player. Five blocks in this game. FIVE!
- Louisville coach Rick Pitino played eight with 11+ minutes. A great rotation with lots of different looks and fresh legs. This will be key down the stretch.
- I'm glad this is a game we'll be able to continue in a couple years, as both these teams will be in the ACC.
This game was an absolute pleasure to watch. Season to season you see a lot of fun, exciting basketball games. This one, to me, was the most fun I've had watching any game this season. As for Syracuse, this might have been the most fun & exciting game I've seen since the 2009 six-overtime win. And this, on a day featuring five games against ranked opponents, and several down-to-the-wire endings. We won't see very many games like this. But alas, the season moves on. This victory moves Syracuse to 17-1 overall, 5-0 in the Big East, where it now sits alone atop the standings. New rankings come out mid-day on Monday, just before Syracuse hosts Cincinnati in the Carrier Dome. Stay tuned!