With suffocating defense, Syracuse basketball thwarts Louisville

Feb 20, 2019; Syracuse, NY, USA; Syracuse Orange guard Tyus Battle (25) drives against Louisville Cardinals guard Khwan Fore (4) during the Orange's 69-49 win at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Whatever shooting illness Syracuse had in their last game a week ago against North Carolina State, they passed on to Louisville Wednesday night. The Orange (18-8, 9-4 ACC), who could barely buy a shot a week ago, stifled the Cardinals (18-9, 9-5) on defense and cruised to a 69-49 home win.

SU forced their guests into a 1-for-17 start behind the three-point line, effectively ending the game before the Cards hit their second triple of the night nearly nine minutes into the second half. Louisville shot under 26 percent for the night from the field, their worst mark in over four years, and just over 21 percent from long range with those marks aided by hitting a pair of triples after walk-ons took over the floor with just over a minute left.

While it was not particularly pretty on offense for Syracuse, they got four players into double digits in scoring. Tyus Battle, Buddy Boeheim, Oshae Brissett, and Elijah Hughes, who combined to make only 7-of-34 shots in their last outing, combined for 59 points in the win over the Cardinals.

After a Brissettt three opened the night’s scoring, the Orange offense went into a field goal drought that lasted nearly six-and-a-half minutes. Louisville was able to take advantage of that cold streak, grabbing an 8-5 lead.

SU came back with the game’s next six points, getting pairs of free throws from Hughes and Marek Dolezaj around a Battle jump shot that put Syracuse in front for good with less than eight minutes off the clock.

The Cards stayed within arm’s length for three minutes, but the Orange rattled off ten straight points to make it a 19-4 run. Brissett cleaned up a rebound to start the streak, then Boeheim connected on a triple from the deep left wing. Boeheim then bounced a jumper from below the left elbow through the net and Hughes banged in a right wing three to force a timeout from the guests, who found themselves in a 24-12 hole with less than six minutes left in the first half.

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SU continued stretching out their lead, eventually pushing it to 33-17 on a Brissett trey from the left wing. Louisville posted a half dozen points to pull within ten, but Hughes made two of three foul shots with 2.5 seconds left for a 35-23 halftime advantage.

The Cardinals came out of the locker room quickly, shaving four more points off the lead, but Syracuse quickly restored order, running off nine unanswered points to start a 12-1 burst.

Brissett posted for a lay-up and Battle converted a steal into a breakaway slam. Battle then added a pair of foul shots and Hughes wrapped two three-pointers around a Louisville foul shot. The second triple put the Orange on top, 47-28, just over six minutes out of the break.

With only the final score in doubt, SU cruised home, tacking on a late 12-3 run to blow the game open. Hughes punctuated a break of the Cards’ press with a left corner three, then Brissett exhibited some nice footwork in the post to get a lay-in. Dolezaj followed a Louisville three with a foul shot and a three-point play. Boeheim closed the finishing kick by swishing a three for a 65-41 lead with under two minutes to play.

Elijah Hughes and Buddy Boeheim each connected on four three-pointers on the night. Hughes led all scorers with 18 points and Boeheim added 14. Oshae Brissett had 16 points, including a dozen in the first half, and Tyus Battle handed out seven assists to go with his 11 points.

Jordan Nwora was the only Louisville player to reach double figures, scoring 11 points. Khwan Fore added eight points while Malik Williams had seven.

Syracuse will finish their two-game set at home on Saturday when they host #1 Duke. The top-ranked Blue Devils (23-3, 11-2) will undoubtedly be in a bad mood, as the Orange pulled out a 95-91 overtime win at Cameron Indoor Stadium last month, knocking them from atop the polls, and North Carolina hammered them at the same venue Wednesday night, 88-72, leaving them atop the polls as a mere formality.

Duke also lost Zion Williamson during their game with the Tar Heels and his availability on Saturday evening is unknown at this time. Williamson and R.J. Barrett were outstanding in the first matchup with SU. Williamson posted a 35-point, ten-rebound double-double and Barrett finished just shy of a triple-double with 23 points, 16 rebounds, and nine assists.

Tyus Battle led the charge for the Orange in the upset, rolling up 32 points. Every SU starter notched double digits in points in the contest, as Elijah Hughes had 20, Frank Howard 18, Oshae Brissett 14, and Paschal Chukwu ten to go with 18 rebounds.

Tip-off is set for 6:00pm Eastern Saturday night with ESPN handling the telecast, which will be available online at ESPN3.com and through the ESPN app.

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About Jim Stechschulte 894 Articles
A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. He currently resides in Syracuse.