Here’s my report card from courtside after the Orange fell 58-53 to the Louisville Cardinals.
Head of the Class:
C.J. Fair: Once again, Fair was the lone bright spot in an otherwise dismal Orange outcome. Though he started out cold, missing a handful of early wild shots around the basket, Fair settled down to 19 points and 6 rebounds on 9-20 shooting in 38 minutes. He eventually found his mid-range stroke, and singlehandedly kept SU in the game in the second half when no one else could consistently get anything going.
Syracuse’s defense: The defense isn’t the problem. Or at least it wasn’t on Saturday. SU held Louisville to 58 points, and the Cardinals shot only 36% from the floor. Most of UL’s shots were contest, save for Peyton Siva, who was absolutely frigid (0-9 overall, 0-8 from three) and nearly shot his team out of the game.
Stay After Class:
Syracuse’s shooting: In a word? Crap-tacular. The Orange were a painful 35% from the floor, and 5-13 (38%) from three. That three-point percentage looks decent, but it took a hot streak by James Southerland in the second half to raise it up that high after they started out 1-8 in the first half. Brandon Triche shot 2-11 overall. Michael Carter-Williams was 3-10. Southerland was 5-12. Everyone else (excluding Fair, who I mentioned above) combined to go 1-3. That won’t get it done.
Syracuse’s turnovers: Louisville’s vaunted press defense forced Syracuse into committing 16 turnovers, including four in crunch time. Triche had 7 on his own, and Fair added 4. SU didn’t react to the Cardinal defense as well on Saturday as they did in their first meeting in Louisville, and it cost them at the end.
Syracuse’s interior play: We’re almost to the point of beating a dead horse, but SU is getting NOTHING from its three-headed center combo. Rakeem Christmas: 1-1, 3 rebounds, 23 minutes. Baye Keita: 0-1, 3 rebounds, 14 minutes. Dajuan Coleman: 0-1, 0 rebounds, 3 minutes. Boeheim made it a point in his post-game news conference to say that the team needs 8-10 points and 8-10 rebounds from its centers to win most ball games. Do the math. Not only are they not producing, but they’re not even getting looks at the basket anymore. Has the rest of the team lost confidence in them, or have they lost it in themselves?
Final Grade: D-
I still hold out hope that SU can get hot in the last two regular season games (home vs. DePaul on Wednesday, at Georgetown next Saturday) before the Big East Tournament. Stranger things have happened. Remember what Kemba Walker and UConn did just a couple of years ago? Who’s to say it can’t happen to SU this season. I know the likelihood is low, but there’s always hope. Right…?
Michael Carter-Williams speaks to the media after the game: