Sunday, February 14, 2010
Bloody Valentine -- Louisville Upsets the Orange
In October if you would have told any Syracuse fan that the Orange would be 24-2 and 11-2 in the Big East at this point in the season every single person would take that. If someone says they wouldn't have been happy with that, then they are a bigger liar than John Edwards (the politician or the scam artist/psychic, you can choose).
Unfortunately, loss number two came today at home to the the Louisville Cardinals and the guy with the bad tattoos pictured above, Mike Marra, had a lot to do with it. Marra, who is averaging three points per game and hasn't even made it into three games this season had 12 big points and one huge hustle play at the end the game to help Louisville pull off the upset and revive the team's NCAA tournament hopes.
While this Syracuse team is still in the midst of a special season, today Louisville simply wanted the game more and out-worked SU. Coming off an embarrassing effort against St. John's earlier in the week, many left the Cardinals for dead. However, Rick Pitino rallied his troops and got an inspired effort, especially on the defensive end, to hold SU to 60 points. The Orange misfired on numerous three point attempts, gave up far too many rebounds, got no production from the point guard spot, and were out-hustled.
Here are far too many observations on the game -- sorry for the length:
- Brandon Triche looked for his offense early, unfortunately he didn't find it. He's definitely an offensive minded player and has a lot of talent, but is struggling to find consistency like most young players. Triche missed all four of his shots from the field, include 3 from behind the arc. His offense will come, but it really feels like he's forcing it at times out there. Patience Brandon, patience.
- With Triche sitting next to Mike Hopkins for most of the game, the point guard duties were left to Scoop Jardine. He's had a very strong season to date, but this was a game where both point guards were off. Scoop had trouble beating the quicker Louisville guards off the dribble and was generally a non-factor out there. At times he struggled to start the offense and get the SU into sets against an active Louisville zone.
- After 6 minutes Louisville had 2 points, yet the Orange only lead by 8. If the Orange had executed better on the offensive end, the lead could have been much bigger -- and the tone of the game would have been completely different. Woulda, coulda, shoulda...
- The SU big men were active and involved early but didn't get a ton of touches. Rick and Arinze only had 11 shots combined the entire game. They made 9 of them.
- This was Wes Johnson's worst game in Orange. He was aggressive on the offensive end, but had poor (and very rare) day shooting the ball - finishing 5-20 from the field. You don't shoot almost 54% from the field during the season and have many of those nights.
- I'm not fashionista, but let's just say the turtleneck Doc Gross was sporting during the game isn't something I'd wear. In fact, I might go with a mesh shirt before I'd don one of those things.
- We had a Mookie Jones siting in the first half. I watched him closely, he's clearly working much harder on the defensive end. I don't think he'll ever be a great defender, but you can see improvement out there and a real willingness to bust his butt on D. Stay patient Mookie, your time is coming.
- The rebounding numbers are deceiving. SU out rebounded Louisville by 2, but the Cardinals had several big offensive rebounds, especially in the second half. While Kris Joseph did haul down 8 board on more than one occasion he failed to block out completely and gave up easy second chance points. A player as athletic as Joseph can get away with relying on athleticism to collect rebounds, but man oh man, they've got to put a body on guys.
- Len Elmore used the term "volume shooting" about 20 times. This was extremely annoying. Even when grading on a "Len Elmore" scale.
- Syracuse had a HUGE mental error at the end of the game when Jard Swoopshire missed the front end of a one and one and the whole team stood around and watched Mike Marra track down the loose ball. Words can't describe how bad that was.
- Andy Rautins might be too unselfish. On a night when Wes was cold, I could have lived with Andy putting up a few more shots. Sometimes a slightly contested shot from your best shooter is going to be a better look than wide open ones from guys that are stone cold.
- In the post-game interview that was replayed on ESPN 400 times, Pitino said that they wanted to limit SU's fast break chances, since 35% of the team's points come in transition. It makes sense, as this team has been struggling in half court sets lately.
- The Orange have scored 73 or fewer points in 5 of the last 6 games.
- After being limited by early foul trouble, Samardo Samuels really stepped up in the second half. The kid is a load in the paint.
- While the call did not - I repeat did not - cost Syracuse the game, the intentional foul called on Kris Joseph by Tim Higgins was absolutely absurd. Joseph got tangled with Jerry Smith and pulled his shoulder while going for the ball. Another black mark for Big East officiating this year.
- Syracuse v. Louisville in the last game at Freedom Hall on March 6th just got a lot more interesting.
- One more thing on Higgins - the man sure has evolved over the years.