No 12 Louisville traveled to New York to face a Syracuse team that is just playing for pride, after a self-imposed ban on postseason play. Led by senior forward Rakeem Christmas’ 29 points and 8 rebounds, the Orangemen defeated the Cardinals 69 – 59.
U of L led most of the first half, relying on strong inside play from Montrezl Harrell and Chinanu Onuaku. The two, along with guard Terry Rozier, helped the Cardinals to a 32 – 28 lead.
The second half would be much different. Syracuse outscored Louisville 41 – 27 in the second half on 57.9 percent (11 – 19) shooting from the field.
Louisville made only 9 of 28 (32.1 percent) in the second half after shooting 53.8 percent in the first half.
The Cardinals were led by Rozier and Harrell. Rozier led U of L in scoring with 17 points, but made only 6 of his 18 shots. Harrell scored 15 points, grabbed 9 rebounds, and dished out 4 assists.
There would be no answer for Rakeem Christmas for U of L. Christmas came into the game leading Syracuse in scoring (17.7) and rebounding (9.2), but the he was coming off two of his poorer performances of the seasons against Duke and Boston College. He combined for 18 points and made only 8 of his 25 shot attempts. Louisville had no answer for him on this night as he made 9 of 10 shots from the floor and 11 of his 13 free throw attempts.
Louisville had the lead for most of the game until just over nine minutes remained. Christmas hit a jumper to put the Orangemen in the lead for good. The lead would increase to five at 52 – 47, but the Cardinals would not go away. Terry Rozier hit an open three off a pass from little-used reserve David Levitch to cut the lead to two.
The lead stayed at two after an Onuaku dunk off a pass from Harrell, but Syracuse would score six straight points to make it an eight point game.
Two made free throws by Levitch would cut the lead to six with 2:53 left. Louisville then got the stop they needed on the defensive end. Terry Rozier drove down the court and got fouled, but would miss the critical front end of the one-and-one.
The opportunity to come back to Louisville with a win was there for the Cardinals, but it was made more difficult without starting point guard Chris Jones. Jones is serving a suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
The fact that Wayne Blackshear provided U of L with no points, rebounds, or assists in only 19 minutes of action was very disappointing and certainly did not help the Cardinals’ when they needed him most.
Quentin Snider and Onuaku played well. Snider, starting in place of Jones, finished with 13 points and 4 assists. Onuaku finished strong with 8 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 assists.
Louisville lost their second straight game and now has lost three of its last four. They fell to 20 – 6 overall and 8 – 5 in the ACC. The will return to the KFC Yum Center to host Miami at 2:00 on Saturday.