A little luck, a lot of 3s lift Louisville

Doesn’t it seem like Syracuse has a way of bringing out the best in its opponent? Seton Hall, Villanova, Pitt and now Louisville shot the lights out against the Orange, and add in Georgetown’s great play in the final six minutes on Wednesday. Louisville laid it to Syracuse by ripping apart the 2-3 zone with great passing off of penetration and clutch shooting, holding off a late charge to defeat the Orange, 73-69.

Louisville always destroys the 2-3 zone. This year it is the best 3-point shooting team in the Big East, and that strength was on full display Saturday. The guards penetrated through the zone and then kicked it out to Preston Knowles or Kyle Kuric. Those two combined to hit 12 of 19 from deep (63 percent!). Louisville was just too quick for the Orange, and the rotations couldn’t get to the shooters in time. The best example of Louisville’s dominance came with the game tied at 26. Louisville penetrated and kicked at least three times while also working it around the perimeter. Twelve passes later, Knowles knocked down the 3-pointer to break Syracuse’s back. That type of possession kills a defense.

Syracuse did begin to close out on shooters better in the second half, but then it couldn’t stop Louisville inside. Forward Terrence Jennings, had three lay-ups and a free throw in the first two minutes after the break. Louisville is a tough, well-drilled team. Syracuse usually does a great job shutting down a team’s big 3-point threat, but with Louisville having two HUGE deep threats who could also drive really well, it just couldn’t keep up.

Louisville did the best job anyone has done on Rick Jackson so far this season. He might have had fewer points against Georgetown, but Jackson was completely non-existent in this game. He was constantly doubled, and often the second defender was a quick guard who caused Jackson to have to pick up his dribble and kick it out. He had very few cleans looks at the basket and finished with just seven points.

Syracuse mounted a furious comeback, and while it came up short, there are a few positives the Orange can take away from it. It seems pretty clear now that Brandon Triche should be the one handling the ball. Scoop had his best offensive game in quite some time, and he got going without the ball in his hands. Early in the first half, he got going by scoring on two layups off of great passes and two spot-up 3s. It wasn’t his dribble penetration. It wasn’t him taking a 3 over a defender in his face. He scored with help from his teammates.

Triche was the one that was making things happen on offense. He knocked down four 3s in the second half to pull Syracuse back in it. Where has that sort of confidence been? Boeheim is always saying he wants him to be more aggressive. I guess this is what happens when he is.

There are obviously a lot of reasons why Syracuse lost this game, but there was also a little bit of luck. There was the outlet pass that looked like it was going to lead to a layup that bounced off a referee’s foot; there were the few dubious calls at the end of the game that may have made a difference; there was Knowles nailing that ridiculously deep 3 at the end of the half; and there was Triche’s 3 with 17 seconds that rimmed out. But one thing that isn’t luck is free-throw shooting. In a game in which every single point was of vital importance, Syracuse connected on just 12 of 19 free throws. To make matters worse, twice it misconnected on the front end of one-and-ones.

This team is streaky. Sometimes it looks like a team that could beat anyone, other times it looks like it has no idea what it’s  doing. We got spoiled last year because those kind of lapses didn’t happen very often. Last year’s team was extremely consistent all year long. But this is college basketball, and the types of peaks and valleys the Orange has gone through are much more typical than not. Let’s just hope the peaks outweigh the valleys over the next month and a half.

Notes
-If Dion Waiters never takes another 3 this year I’ll still probably question his shot choices.
-Mike Marra (#33) has the worst tattoos I’ve seen all season. A spider web on his knee? A CLOWN  (like Insane Clown Posse type clown) on his shoulder? “Hardwork” and “Dedication” on the back of his calves? The worst part is he’s only a sophomore. Have to spend two more years looking at that goober.

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Week in review (2/13): Does SU love us?
Louisville outshoots slumping Syracuse
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