SYRACUSE, NY - FEBRUARY 13:  Jaylen Johnson #10 of the Louisville Cardinals and Tyler Lydon #20 of the Syracuse Orange react to a loose ball during the first half at the Carrier Dome on February 13, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

No. 8 Louisville takes down Syracuse in overtime

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Louisville was able to hold off Syracuse in overtime as the No. 8 Cardinals held on for a 76-72 ACC road win over the Orange on Monday night. With a chance to tie with two free throws with 2.7 seconds left, Syracuse senior missed both of them.

After blowing a late lead in regulation the Cardinals were able to rally in overtime and hold on once again during a late Syracuse charge as the Orange lost their second straight game.

Donovan Mitchell led Louisville with 16 points while Quentin Snider had 14 points as five Cardinals finished in double figures.

The win keeps Louisville tied for second in the ACC with a crowded field at the top. With the NCAA tournament men’s basketball selection committee naming Louisville as a No. 2 seed — and No. 7 overall — this was a solid road win over a potential tournament team.

Here are two takeaways from this one:

1. Louisville needs to figure out how to close

Louisville will certainly take a conference road win against a team like Syracuse but this game also offered a disturbing trend in which the Cardinals nearly blew late leads in both regulation and overtime.

Now that Snider has returned from injury, the Cardinals have plenty of backcourt options to help close out games but Louisville continually missed free throws and had some poor offensive possessions while holding the lead late.

When Snider was out with injury, Louisville really seemed to get in an offensive groove as they were putting up a lot of points while getting some blowout wins. Things have slowed down with Snider back in the lineup and I still think he and Mitchell are figuring out the best way to share the ball and co-exist in the Louisville backcourt.

Syracuse also wanted to keep the tempo a bit slower than Louisville usually likes to play with its zone but the Cardinals offense spent time sputtering at the end of both halves.

Deng Adel will have better games than his off-night on Monday but the Cardinals need to figure a few things out on offense during this final regular season stretch.

2. Syracuse missed another chance at a signature win

With the Orange currently fighting hard for one of the last at-large bids in the NCAA tournament, this is the kind of loss that could come back to bite Syracuse. While Louisville certainly deserves credit for the win, the Orange’s offense was very stagnant for a good portion of the second half.

Now with two consecutive losses, Syracuse needs to finish at least .500 to feel comfortable heading into the ACC tournament. The Orange get two games with Georgia Tech — and winning in Atlanta has not been easy this season — as well as a home game against Duke and a road return to Louisville.

We’ve seen that the Orange can go toe-to-toe with the Cardinals but it feels like Syracuse might need to beat either Duke or Louisville to feel comfortable.

Syracuse also deserves credit for two late comebacks when they could have quit fighting. Most of the team struggled offensively. Senior Andrew White was only 2-for-14 from three-point range but he still figured out ways to score late as he totaled 22 points.

Big second half run leads No. 12 Virginia past No. 4 Louisville

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - FEBRUARY 06: V.J. King #0 of the Louisville Cardinals goes to the basket during Louisville's game against the Virginia Cavaliers at John Paul Jones Arena on February 6, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Chet Strange/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chet Strange/Getty Images)
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Virginia used a big second-half run to secure a big home win in the ACC as they beat depleted No. 4 Louisville 71-55 on Monday night. The Cavaliers found themselves down at the half only to start the second half on a monster 22-4 run.

Playing without Deng Adel and Mangok Mathiang (suspended for violating team curfew), the Cardinals didn’t have the firepower to stay with the Cavaliers once Virginia went on its big run. The No. 12 Cavaliers broke a three-way tie for second place in the ACC with the win as they try to keep pace with North Carolina.

London Perrantes led Virginia with 18 points while Isaiah Wilkins had 13 points and 11 rebounds as Virginia had a balanced offensive attack that outscored Louisville 39-21 in the second half.

Here are two takeaways from this one.

1. Virginia has Louisville’s number (and it will help the ‘Hoos NCAA tournament seed)

The Cavaliers (18-5, 8-3) just seem to have the Cardinals figured out. With four consecutive wins over Louisville and five wins over the last six games, Rick Pitino’s teams have struggled against Virginia since joining the ACC.

Most importantly for Virginia, two wins over Louisville this season gives Virginia a nice footnote for its NCAA tournament profile. Virginia’s non-conference wins ended up being worse than originally thought (wins over Iowa, Providence, Ohio State and Cal aren’t all that helpful) but beating the Cardinals means that Virginia might get two top-10 wins from one opponent.

With Virginia dropping a road game at Syracuse over the weekend, this win should elevate the Cavaliers back up to a potential top-three seed as they continue to try to stay with the ACC’s elite. If Virginia can keep winning games like this they’ll have a chance to climb even higher in tournament seeding since so many top-25 teams have lost games lately.

Virginia has a tough schedule to conquer the rest of the regular season but it also offers this team the chance to stockpile some more quality wins.

2. Being shorthanded finally caught up to Louisville but they’ll be near full strength soon enough

Louisville (19-5, 7-4) is already accustomed to playing without its full lineup as point guard Quentin Snider and reserve guard Tony Hicks have missed recent time due to injury. But two suspensions made matters even worse for Louisville with the loss of Adel and Mathiang on Monday.

With those two in the lineup, Louisville might have tried to press Virginia for the entire game — using its length, athleticism and depth to try to wear down the ‘Hoos and change what they’ve been doing in the past.

As I alluded to above, Louisville has struggled to figure out Virginia in ACC play the last few years so they really could have used those Adel and Mathiang in a game like this. It did give a chance for others to shine, as freshman V.J. King scored a career-high 24 points, but the Cardinals were also missing the depth that helps make them so effective.

With only King and sophomore guard Donovan Mitchell (16 points) scoring at all, Louisville’s offense really struggled, especially in the second half. The Cardinals also got destroyed on the glass as they were outrebounded 38-19.

Missing those two players certainly hurt Louisville in this one but the schedule gets quite a bit easier from here.

Louisville only has one ranked team remaining on the regular season schedule as they get two against Syracuse and games with Wake Forest and Miami. Those are three tough teams trying to fight for the NCAA tournament but the Cardinals should also be favored in most of those games as long as they have most of their lineup.

That means the Cardinals can still compete for the ACC regular-season crown if they win out — especially with a crack at conference-leader North Carolina on Feb. 22.

With Louisville expecting Snider to be potentially back by the weekend, they should be back to full strength for the stretch run.

Five Takeaways from No. 10 Florida State’s win over No. 12 Louisville

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 25:  Dwayne Bacon #4 of the Florida State Seminoles drives to the basket against the Illinois Fighting Illiniin the second half during the consolation game of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Barclays Center on November 25, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Using a hot start in which they jumped out to a 16-2 lead, No. 10 Florida State held on from there as they outlasted No. 12 Louisville for a 73-68 ACC home win.

The Seminoles (18-2, 6-1) led for the entire game as this was a one-point game with under two minutes left with a chance for Louisville to take the lead.

Florida State ultimately held on as I have five takeaways from this one.

1. Jonathan Isaac is getting comfortable

Florida State’s stud freshman registered 16 points and 10 rebounds on Saturday, making a number of key late plays on both ends of the floor. Isaac has put together three straight double-doubles and it looks like the 6-foot-10 forward is getting very comfortable with this team. The Seminoles become so dangerous with Isaac playing like this because they already have talented scorers like Dwayne Bacon, Terance Mann and Xavier Rathan-Mayes around him.

Isaac fits in very well alongside those guys because he doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be productive like Malik Beasley did last season. At 6-foot-10, Isaac can rebound both ends of the floor, is a menace defending multiple positions and he’s making tougher face-up plays on the offensive end. With Isaac playing this way, Florida State can reach a new level.

2. Louisville will be fine without Quentin Snider during his injury

When Florida State jumped out to a 16-2 lead before the first television timeout, it looked like Louisville was going to be in deep trouble. Credit first and foremost goes to Louisville for fighting back and making this a one-point game with under two minutes left. The Cardinals looked like they had no business taking a go-ahead shot with the way they played early.

It also showed that Louisville should be okay without point guard Quentin Snider during his injury. After dismantling Clemson at home, the Cardinals went toe-to-toe with a top-10 team on the road and fell just short after a slow start.

Louisville obviously needs to find someone who can start more quickly so that the Cardinals don’t have an awful start like they did on Saturday. But this team shouldn’t make a big slide down the standings without Snider in the lineup.

3. Florida State’s defense can take away main options

One of the impressive things about Florida State’s defense on Saturday was how they took sophomores Donovan Mitchell and Deng Adel and neutralized them after the duo combined for 36 points in the win over Clemson.

Mitchell and Adel were only held to 18 points on 6-for-23 shooting on Saturday as the Seminole defense did the best they could to harass those two into a bad game. With Mitchell and Adel struggling to drum up consistent points, the Cardinals had to turn to Tony Hicks as the senior graduate transfer took 17 shots and led the team with 17 points.

If Louisville wants to beat elite teams, then Tony Hicks can’t be the guy shooting that many shots. If teams are going to be keyed in on Adel and Mitchell then Louisville needs to adjust its gameplan or have a more balanced backup plan in place for offense.

Back to Florida State’s defense though, they have the type of long and athletic defenders that they can throw at you in waves and they also have length at the rim with guys like Michael Ojo and Isaac. They’re a tough group to score on if they’re focused.

4. The Florida State offense still needs work

Florida State’s March ceiling will ultimately come down to which offense they bring to the NCAA tournament. The Seminoles have the length, athleticism and rotation to wear down teams on defense if they want to. As we’ve seen with Leonard Hamilton teams of the past, the Seminoles’ offense can be maddeningly inconsistent.

The good news is that Florida State has been efficient as a whole. We know that Florida State might be built to last because they’re pulling off the impressive feat of ranking in the top 30 in KenPom in adjusted offensive efficiency, adjusted defensive efficiency and adjusted tempo.

Not many teams in the country play fast and can play well on both ends of the floor. Florida State can. But the offense can still stall out at times and go to too much hero ball. Lots of talent remains on the floor for the Seminoles but isolation-heavy sets can take foot. When this team stops moving the ball they can be in trouble.

5. We’ll know if Florida State is in the ACC race after this three-game road trip

For as much praise as we’ve given Florida State this season — and much of it justifiably so — the Seminoles also only have one true road win this season.

That road win happened to come at Virginia, which has been one of the toughest places to play in the country the last few seasons, so that erased some doubts for Florida State, but this next three-game trip should teach us a lot about this group.

With three winnable games coming up at Georgia Tech, Syracuse and Miami, the Seminoles can make a statement that they can compete for the ACC title if they take care of teams like that on this trip.

If Florida State returns from that trip 3-0 then it will be time to really take them seriously in the ACC race.

 

No. 14 Louisville holds on for win over Pitt

LOUISVILLE, KY - JANUARY 11:  Quentin Snider #4 of the Louisville Cardinals shoots the ball during the game against the Pittsburgh Panthers at KFC YUM! Center on January 11, 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Louisville jumped out to a big early lead and barely held on from there as the No. 14 Cardinals used an up-and-down effort to capture an 85-80 ACC home win over Pitt.

It looked like a rout might be on for Louisville in this one as they jumped out to a 47-26 halftime lead and led by double-digits for most of the second half. But the Cardinals offense slowed down in the second frame as a scoreless stretch and some turnovers let the Panthers creep back in the game.

Pitt closed the lead to five points with under a minute left but ultimately fell short as the Panthers had their second consecutive miserable start to a game that ultimately buried them in the end as they attempted to rally.

Louisville (13-3, 2-2) was paced by Quentin Snider, as the junior point guard had a solid outing with 22 points and five assists. Donovan Mitchell and Deng Adel added 15 points each for Louisville while Ray Spalding added 11 points and eight rebounds.

For as great as Louisville looked in the first half, they looked equally as awful in the second half. Against a team like Pitt at home, the Cardinals can get away with a split effort like that, but Louisville is going to need to play a more consistent 40 minutes to beat a lot of the better teams in the ACC.

While Louisville’s second-half struggles are a bit concerning there is some intrigue with how this team played in the first half. The Cardinals looked like a force on both ends of the floor as they mixed and matched a lot of unique lineups and gave Pitt fits.

I particularly liked Louisville’s one small-ball look in which Spalding spent some time at the five because it gives the Cardinals the option to play five long and athletic players that make it tough to advance the ball against. If Spalding can do a good enough job of protecting the rim and rebounding as the five in that lineup that could be a look that Rick Pitino turns to more often.

Louisville has a strong stretch of four games coming up where they get Duke at home on Saturday, Clemson at home next week and then back-to-back road games at Florida State and Pitt. It’ll be be interesting to see how the Cardinals look against Duke on Saturday after their horrible second half, since the Blue Devils are coming off of a loss at Florida State and will likely come out aggressive.

Jamel Artis had a monster night and did everything he could to keep Pitt in this game but the senior didn’t have enough help. Artis finished with 43 points but Michael Young was the only other double-figure scorer for the Panthers with 17 points.

Pitt (12-5, 1-3) is going to need more from guys outside of Artis and Young to beat the upper-echelon teams of the ACC, but that isn’t any sort of new revelation that we didn’t know already.

 

 

No. 23 Notre Dame outlasts No. 9 Louisville

SOUTH BEND, IN - JANUARY 04: Rex Pflueger #0 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Louisville Cardinals battle for the loose ball at Purcell Pavilion on January 4, 2017 in South Bend, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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N0. 23 Notre Dame moved to 2-0 in the ACC by outlasting No. 9 Louisville, 77-70, for a home win on Wednesday night. The Fighting Irish were able to hold off the Cardinals by knocking down free throws as they went 22-for-25 as they were able to ice the game down the stretch.

This win was important for the Fighting Irish because they remain unbeaten in a brutal league and they’ve done so without senior V.J. Beachem playing well in league play. Beachem is averaging just under 15 points per game on the season and he’s only scored eight points in 69 minutes of ACC play so far as he was held to two points in the Notre Dame win on Wednesday.

With Beachem struggling to find his offense, the Irish once again got solid efforts from Bonzie Colson (18 points, 14 rebounds), Steve Vasturia (24 points) and Matt Farrell (22 points) while the bench also came through with some solid all-around efforts.

For Notre Dame to be 2-0 with basically nothing from Beachem shows how far Farrell has come since the beginning of the year. The junior has really grown comfortable in his role as the Notre Dame lead guard and he does a great job of mixing attacks to the rim and jumpers.

Louisville (12-3, 0-2) drops to 0-2 after previously falling at home to Virginia. The Cardinals continue to get good games from sophomore guard Donovan Mitchell (20 points) and junior guard Quentin Snider (12 points) was also solid. Sophomore forward Deng Adel struggled a bit to a 4-for-13 finish as he ended with 10 points.

One concerning thing for the Cardinals is their true lack of a go-to scorer. This was still a one-possession game with under two minutes left and the Louisville offense tried repeated attempts at lobs to Anas Mahmoud. That goes to show their confidence level in finding one guy who can just go and get a bucket for them in a tight game.

Notre Dame has Vasturia for those tough shots as the senior once again buried a tough runner to make it a two-possession game and put things out of reach for the Cardinals. Coming off of the game-winning three-pointer on the road at Pitt, Vasturia has a lot of confidence in late-game situations.

If Notre Dame is able to get Beachem going again they have the kind of scary offense that is going to be tough to contain for the rest of the season. Farrell has adequately replaced Demetrius Jackson at point and the other experienced pieces in Colson and Vasturia have also developed into consistently productive weapons. Beachem playing at his best could mean Notre Dame is in the discussion to be a surprise ACC contender.

No. 11 Louisville cruises past Eastern Kentucky 87-56

LOUISVILLE, KY - DECEMBER 17: Quentin Snider #4 of the Louisville Cardinals drives to the basket against Dillon Avare #4 of the Eastern Kentucky Colonels in the first half of the game at KFC YUM! Center on December 17, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Donovan Mitchell scored 15 points, Quentin Snider added 13 and No. 11 Louisville used a 20-0 run to close the first half and dominate Eastern Kentucky 87-56 on Saturday for its fifth straight victory.

Seeking a good tuneup for next week’s rivalry game against No. 6 Kentucky, the Cardinals (10-1) shook off a sluggish start and 12-6 deficit to outscore EKU 30-4 the rest of the half and hold the Colonels scoreless for the final 7 minutes.

Louisville never looked back en route to its 14th championship in 15 years in the Billy Minardi Classic, named for the brother-in-law of Cardinals coach Rick Pitino.

The Cardinals shot 48 percent from the field and owned the boards 47-31 in dominating the first game between the schools since 2004.

Mangok Mathiang matched a career best with 13 rebounds for Louisville. Jaylen Johnson and Tony Hicks each had 10 points.

Nick Mayo had 15 points and Asante Gist 12 for the Colonels (6-6), who didn’t reach 20 points until the 16:39 mark of the second half and shot 36 percent.

THE BIG PICTURE

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels started fresh despite a week off for finals before being overwhelmed by Louisville. Besides shooting just 27 percent in the first half, they missed all five free throws before finishing 8 of 15. The high-scoring tandem of Mayo and Gist were held below their per-game scoring averages of 19.3 and 14.4 points, respectively.

Louisville: Snider’s eight straight points including two 3s helped snap the Cardinals out of their initial offensive funk. He has scored in double digits in consecutive games. Anas Mahmoud returned from a three-game absence (concussion) with six points, five blocks and four rebounds. Louisville has held four of its last five opponents to 36 percent shooting or lower.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Consecutive blowouts could push Louisville into the Top 10 just in time to face in-state rival Kentucky.

UP NEXT

Eastern Kentucky: Continues a five-game road swing on Monday at Norfolk State.

Louisville: Hosts No. 6 Kentucky on Wednesday night in the annual showdown for Bluegrass supremacy. The Cardinals have lost three straight in the series.