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Syracuse men’s basketball: Orange narrowly avoid upset by Cardinals, rally for 70-69 victory

New year, same panic-attack-inducing Orange!

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

That was certainly one of the basketball games of all time.

The Syracuse Orange began 2023 with another slow start, and what could have been disastrous defeat at the hands of 2-12 Louisville ended up as a one-point win over said lackluster ACC opponent.

This was a very ugly team performance on both ends of the court. Joe Girard led the Orange with 28 points and added seven boards and three assists, but he also turned the ball over five times and only shot 7/18 from the field. Judah Mintz was second in scoring with 16 points, and he also contributed 4 assists.

Big man Jesse Edwards had an unusually quiet night on offense with 12 points, only shooting 4/10 on FGs and 4/8 from the line. He was his normal self in the rebounding category, leading ‘Cuse with 11.

Chris Bell drained a three inside the first minute for SU’s first points of the evening, and Girard followed that up with his first trifecta on the night. While the Orange made those two deep shots, they were a meager 1/7 inside the paint until a Jesse Edwards dunk made it 10-6.

After that, the usual stretch of the offense completely shutting down occurred. The Cardinals, helped by three turnovers, proceeded to go on a 13-0 run and take a 19-10 advantage. That rough stretch was thankfully followed by 12-0 SU run to reclaim the lead.

The rest of the first half was a back-and-forth affair, with the Orange and Cards trading points pretty evenly. As the clock winded down, a fading jumper by El Ellis gave Louisville a one-point lead, 35-34, entering halftime.

SU’s misfortunes continued while the home squad scored the first six points of the second half. Ellis found himself wide open on an in-bound for an easy three, and JGIII allowed the 13th Orange turnover of the night, leading to an easy opposition layup and 1.

Bell drained his second shot from the arc to tie the game at 43, but back-to-back rushed deep looks from Girard prevented ‘Cuse from reclaiming the lead. There were some other head-scratching moments throughout the half, like Edwards missing three straight free throw attempts and Girard being unable to finish on an all-alone layup.

With the game neck and neck down the stretch, Girard drained a 3-point shot straight off a feed from Mintz. Then a few possessions later, JGIII forced a turnover and found Mintz, who went coast-to-coast and slammed down a go-ahead dunk, the score 61-60.

The Cards didn’t fall behind by two until another Girard trifecta hit nothing but net for a 66-64 Orange advantage. Mintz and he both made a pair of free throws on the ensuing offensive possessions to maintain the slim lead.

Those free throws are what won this sloppy game for the Orange - they shot 76% from the line, while Louisville only made 40% of their free throws. It also helped that the Cardinals’ personal fouls outnumbered Syracuse’s 20-13.

The closing seconds of the game were a microcosm of the whole thing. With about nine ticks left on the clock, Mintz slipped near mid-court and turned the ball over, only for Ellis to lose the ball just as quickly for Louisville. Edwards was able to corral and hold onto the ball as time expired, preserving SU’s tenth win of the season.

A win is a win, but man, that was way, way too close.