Syracuse lost to Louisville in the finals of the final Big East Tournament (as we know it) on Saturday night, 78-61. Here are a few thoughts from the game:
Couldn’t handle the pressure
It was the most terrifying factor coming into this game. The Louisville pressure has frustrated opposing offenses all season. It does something very unique by hand checking and bumping with the body consistently down the court. They basically foul the entire time they press but the referees can’t call anything so they get away with 90% of it. It’s genius, really… and Syracuse couldn’t handle it. It forced Carter-Williams into his four second-half turnovers and forced Triche into many of his seven turnovers on the night.
Do I really have to say anything else? 12-for-26 in a Championship game doesn’t get you a victory. In fact, if Syracuse continues to shoot that way from the line, the team wont make it very far into the NCAA Tournament. Is it the pressure? The team shot around 70% during the season. Is March getting to these guys?
The Southerland Factor
It wasn’t until James Southerland was called for his fourth foul that Louisville started its huge run that buried the Orange. He wasn’t necessarily playing well, shooting just 3-for-9, but his presence is extremely important. When he’s in the game, Louisville defenders are always keeping an eye on Southerland. That opens up space for a lot of other players to be effective. When he left the game, Fair, who was having a great game, was shut down because the attention could shift to him. But the reason Southerland got into foul trouble was because of his help defense underneath… which leads to my next point.
Exposed down low
There’s a reason Montrezl Harrell went off and scored 20 points tonight. Syracuse is weak inside. It’s something that everyone has known about all season but no one has really been taking advantage of. Harrell took full advantage. Of course Dieng was getting a lot of attention, giving Harrell a lot of one-on-one opportunities against Christmas or Keita inside and he dominated. Defensively, the only hope Syracuse has inside is when Fair and Southerland collapse and suffocate whoever gets the ball inside. The trouble is that two players are now left wide open on the perimeter.
Louisville is one of the best teams in the country. The run the Orange made is just what it needed to get back on track for the NCAA Tournament. The loss to Louisville shouldn’t be the focus. Grinding out a win against a tough Pittsburgh team and taking down a great Georgetown team should be what Orange fans look at. Syracuse showed that it has the ability to make a run.