If you don’t score, you can’t press. If you miss shots, you leave yourself vulnerable for fast break points at the other end.
Today, the No. 2 Syracuse Orange kept the No. 19 Louisville Cardinals all out of sorts, in a low-scoring 58-49 win that saw Rick Pitino’s team unable to ever really play at a pace or style they’re comfortable with.
The game was the lowest point total of the Cardinals season and their second worst shooting performance. They missed 42 shots.
Losers of four of their last six to close out the regular season and with the Big East and NCAA Tournament just around the corner, fans in the Derby City have every right to be upset, even downright mad, about their basketball team.
This week, Pitino said on his weekly radio show that “significant changes” had been made in practice. Some may have taken solace in that, but others sensed desperation. Just what could be solved this late in the season?
The most blatant change we saw for today’s game freshman Wayne Blackshear’s first ever college start, which moved senior Kyle Kuric to the bench. The move was intended to get Blackshear into the groove of the game quick in hopes of the team acquiring a new source of scoring. But its impact was negligible, as Blackshear scored just four points on 1-5 shooting in 14 minutes, while Kuric still saw 30 minutes of court time off the bench.
In the half-court the Cardinals were predictable, deliberate and ineffective. They strugged to get into the Syracuse zone and relied on the three ball.
To make matters worse was Peyton Siva. The point guard appeared mentally checked out on certain possessions with a number of lazy passes.
The methodical approach played right into another patented Syracuse 15-3 “run” to close out the final eight minutes of the first half. This “run” may need another name, however, as it seems like a more sensational way to say that the Orange pieced together a string of defensive stops, and effectively ran their offense on the other end of the court – the mark of a national championship contender.
If there was just a little cause for concern for Louisville in the middle of February, there’s plenty of concern with only single elimination games ahead. With Kentucky cruising and Murray State poised to play into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, the Cardinals may be the laughing stock of the Bluegrass State come April.
Sadly, there’s no time left to make tweaks and fix what’s wrong.
Follow Nick Fasulo on Twitter @billyedelinSBN.