The Syracuse Orange men's basketball team is running out of opportunities to earn victories against solid opponents, and Wednesday night it will get another chance as rival the Louisville Cardinals visit the Carrier Dome for a ACC showdown.
Syracuse (16-9, 7-5 ACC) enters the contest three days after losing to the visiting, No. 4-ranked Duke Blue Devils, 80-72. SU was paced by junior swingman Michael Gbinije's 27 points, 19 of which came in the first half, but the performance wasn't enough to overcome Duke's efficient, second-half shooting, which featured it knocking down 61.9% of its attempts.
Sophomore forward Tyler Roberson had one of his best outing as an Orange tallying 19 points and 10 rebounds, however, the team's top scorers, senior center Rakeem Christmas (11 points) and junior sharpshooter Trevor Cooney (11), struggled in the loss.
Louisville (20-5, 8-4) is also entering the showdown coming off a loss. The Cardinals dropped a 75-65 contest to the visiting North Carolina State Wolfpack, who used a 21-point performance from guard Cat Barber en route to a solid ACC victory. The loss was Louisville second in three games.
As mentioned above, Syracuse received fantastic performances from Gbinije and Roberson in its last outing, as both netted career highs, and will need better outings from Christmas and Cooney if they want to upset Louisville.
Currently, Gbinije is playing the best basketball of his career as he has scored at least 20 points in his last three games. He is currently the ACC's top three-point shooter, making 50.9 percent of his long-range attempts during league play. Since being named a starter on Dec. 6, Gbinije is averaging 14.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and has made 58.7 percent of his attempts.
Despite a below-average performance against Duke, Christmas is still the Orange's go-to offensive option. The senior has tallied double-digit point totals in 23 of SU's 25 games and currently sits as the fourth-best scorer in the ACC.
Meanwhile, Trevor Cooney continues to tally up the playing minutes. His averaging over 37 minutes a game overall, but in ACC play he has sat only six minutes of action.
The Cardinals will be playing without starting point guard Chris Jones, who has been suspended from the basketball team and did not travel to Syracuse. The loss of Jones means the Cardinals will be playing without a double-digit scorer, top assist man and second-best three-point shooter. Jones led the team in scoring (20 points) in Saturday's loss to N.C. State. In his absence, it is expected freshman Quentin Snider will get his first start of his career. Snider has played in all 25 games for the Cardinals, but hasn't produced much on offense.
Guard Terry Rozier is the ACC's third-best scorer averaging 18.0 ppg. Rozier has spent most of the season atop the league scorer rankings, which is impressive considering he tallied just 7.0 ppg last season. Only SU's Christmas has a better scoring improvement (+11.9) from last season. Rozier has averaged 19.7 points and 6.0 rebounds over the last seven games and earned ACC Player of the Week honor twice this season. His season-high is 32 points, which came against Western Kentucky on Dec. 20.
Meanwhile, Montrezl Harrell is looking to continue his impressive play against the Orange. The last time he sized-up against a Jim Boeheim-led squad was in the championship game of the 2013 Big East Tournament, when he scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds. The preaseason All-America player is coming off one of his worst outings as a Louisville star, as he scored a season-low seven points against the Wolfpack. It was the first time he'd been held to fewer than 15 points since Dec. 5.
Blackshear is coming off his best performance (19 points) since a 31-point showcase against CSU Northridge on Dec. 23. He is the team's top three-point shooting threat, even though, Rozier and Jones, have made a higher percentage.
|Record||16-9, 7-5||20-5, 8-4|
In comparing the two programs, Louisville is better in almost every offensive and defensive category expect offensive field goal and 3-point shoot percentages, and defensive rebounding average. It's plain and simple, Louisville does a lot of things very well, but it struggles to score at times and can be beaten on the boards.
Game Time: 7 p.m. ET
Television: ESPN–Bob Wischusen (play-by-play), Sean Farnham (color).
Radio: Syracuse IMG Radio Network
RPI Rankings: Syracuse – 71; Louisville – 16.
What A Win Means For Syracuse: Any day the Orange can beat Rick Pitino it is a good day. Let it be a good day for us all.
Meaningless Prediction: Syracuse 72, Louisville 68
It doesn't matter, so I am picking Syracuse!
Next Up for SU:
|at Notre Dame||Tues., 2/24||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|at Duke||Sat., 2/28||7 p.m.||ESPN|
|at NC State