Syracuse and Louisville struggled offensively on Monday night, as the Orange defeated the Cardinals 52-51 in a battle of elite defenses.
Louisville shot 34.7 percent from the field and 5-for-19 from downtown. SU was even worse at 34.4 percent from the field and 1-for-15 from distance. It was a stark contrast to Syracuse’s last game against Connecticut, when SU shot 59 percent from the field in a 85-67 win.
“It was an unbelievable defensive struggle tonight,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said to reporters following the game. “Both teams have difficult defenses to play against.”
Especially in the closing moments.
The Orange held the Cardinals scoreless for the final 3:39 of the game, although SU wasn’t much better as it didn’t make a basket in the final 2:12.
Fittingly, it was a defensive stand that won the game.
With 37 seconds left and the Orange up one, Cardinals guard Peyton Siva sliced through the Syracuse defense. Siva momentarily spotted center Gorgui Dieng and tried to drop it off to him for the go-ahead basket.
Instead, the ball skipped away and into the hands of Dion Waiters, who raced up court, preserving an ugly win for the Orange.
“You can either give the defenses credit or say it was a bad offensive game,” Boeheim said. “We’re going to look on the bright side and say it was a real defensive struggle.”
It was also a struggle from the free throw line for the Cardinals.
Louisville got to the line 21 times, 10 more than the Orange. But the Cardinals made just 12 of them.
“It is very simple, we didn’t make free throws,” Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said. “That is what is so bothersome to me. Not that we didn’t lose to a good basketball team, but (shooting) 12 for 21 with the amount of time we spend on it is inexcusable.”
Meanwhile, the Orange hit nine of 11, including 3-for-3 from Fab Melo, who has hit his last 10 free throws.
“They were big, he (Fab Melo) made his first one,” Boeheim said. “I wasn’t too optimistic on his last two. He’s becoming a shooter I guess, he’s been shooting the ball better lately.”