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Jim Boeheim was pleased with Syracuse’s effort, but it wasn’t enough

It was an unbelievable effort that came up short.

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Syracuse
Syracuse Orange head coach Jim Boeheim looks to calm his team in the overtime period of a game against the Louisville Cardinals at the Carrier Dome.
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange were down by double-digits yet again, but didn’t quit.

It’s clear this is a different team than the one we saw in late November and December. Whether that’s from an effort standpoint, togetherness, comfort playing with one another and overall chemistry — the team is flat out different.

And that’s a good thing.

Monday was no different as the Orange found itself down 14 points in regulation, and, as Jim Boeheim said, the game was all but over.

With the Orange down by seven points late, SU got into its full-court press and went on a run. After a John Gillon 3-pointer, two free throws and an Andrew White layup, Syracuse found itself down 56-55 with 1:04 left.

“I thought we played as hard as we’ve ever played,” Boeheim said after the game. “It was an unbelievable battle back to get back in it. We should’ve been out both times. They just didn’t give up. They just kept coming back.”

Jaylen Johnson then had a tip-slam with under 50 seconds remaining, which gave UL a three-point lead. John Gillon, calm and composed, then came down and hit a rainbow 3-pointer with 40.2 seconds remaining.

We were all tied at 58.

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The game went into overtime with that same score, and the Cardinals simply outworked the Orange. Whether it was a couple defensive lapses in the extra five-minute period, missed opportunities on the offensive end or lack of rebounding — Louisville prevailed, 76-72.

“We’ve been down in four or five situations and we won them all until tonight,” Jim Boeheim said. “That’s not easy to do. We probably should’ve lost two or three of those games that we won, at least. These guys fight. They fight as hard as you can fight. When you’re down against Louisville - whatever it was - seven, eight, nine and to come back and have a chance to win the game, it’s an unbelievable effort there. Then you’re down nine or something in overtime and get it to two? Louisville’s a top 10 team, top five, maybe. I mean, that’s an unbelievable accomplishment.”

“It was an unbelievable effort. A Herculean effort.”

The effort, however, came up short. And the Orange finds itself on the bubble with four regular season games remaining. Syracuse (16-11, 8-6) travels to Georgia Tech on Sunday for another big ACC game.

Is SU done? By no means.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

But it’s an uphill battle from here, there’s no question. SU has the Yellow Jackets twice, Duke at the Dome and Louisville on the road.

Everyone tends to argue about what the magic number is, but nobody truly knows.

I did have one Syracuse fan tell me on Monday that the loss to St. John’s is “good” because the Johnnies are a top 100 team.

If anyone can convince me that a 33-point home loss to a team that’s two-games under .500 is a good win — I want what you’re smoking.

Syracuse could lose to the Kansas or Kentucky or UCLA by 33 at the Carrier Dome and it still wouldn’t be a good loss.

What we do know, though, is that these four games are crucial. Whether Syracuse needs to go 2-2 and win a game in the ACC Tournament, or go 3-1 and win one — who knows? I certainly don’t and neither do you.

Take it one game at a time, and that all starts on Sunday evening.

As for Monday’s game — applaud SU’s effort, because a month and a half ago Syracuse doesn’t have it in them to make this a game. They’d roll over and quit — just like the St. John’s game.

Only time will tell whether or not this team has any magic left in its back pocket.