There were two ways to look at Syracuse’s 52-51 win over Louisville on Monday.
There was the ugly—and it was quite ugly.
Syracuse shot 1 for 29 from the perimeter and 34.4 percent for the game. They were 1 for 15 from beyond the arc. Scoop Jardine went 0 for 8 from the field.
Yeah, pretty ugly.
But there was also the good—and in many ways, it was quite good.
The Orange won against a team they hadn’t beaten in seven tries. They did it against a team that was streaking and had won six in a row to reclaim a spot among the best teams in the Big East. And, they did it on the road in one of the toughest environments to play.
Oh yeah, it was the third game in six nights. A hell week of sorts.
“You can either give the defenses credit or say it was a bad offensive game,” SU coach Jim Boeheim said. “We’re going to look on the bright side and say it was a real defensive struggle.”
And that’s the way this game should be looked at.
Because for all of the bad, the Orange still managed a win.
To be sure, there will be nights when SU won’t shoot well. We’ve seen it plenty of times this season.
Think back to the NIT Preseason Tip Off against Virginia Tech and Stanford. Or the nail-biter against Georgetown last week.
The Orange had one of those off shooting nights. Every team has them.
But the difference between good and great teams is that the great teams still find a way to win a close game. And that is exactly what the Orange did against the Hokies, Cardinal and Hoyas.
On Monday, they did it with their defense, which held Louisville to 34.7 percent shooting. They forced 16 turnovers, including five from Peyton Silva, who spent most of the first half shredding the SU zone. They did it by holding Louisville scoreless in the final 3:13 of the game while making a key basket when they needed it.
What else did they do?
SU stayed in the game despite absorbing a late 15-2 run from the Cardinals. Instead of giving up, the Orange countered with a 6-0 run of their own. All of this happened while Kris Joseph, who was their go-to scorer against Georgetown, was in foul trouble all night.
Ugly or not, this was winning basketball, the kind of basketball that produces deep runs in March.
“We’ve been in a bunch of close games this year and we’ve made plays we had to in those games,” Boeheim said. “We showed great perseverance.”
They sure did.