Hello Syracuse. Welcome back to the bubble.
By some miracle, this SU team topped Louisville 78-73. On the road. On short rest.
It wasn’t too long ago when people began to question if Syracuse would win another game this season. Yes, this is the same Orange team that was just held to 44 points at home. The same one that lost by two against a Notre Dame team that was scrambling for bodies. The same one that’s been held to 60 points or less in its last three games.
For a team whose downfall last season was road wins, this one will certainly shine come tournament time. The Cardinals have beyond exceeded expectations this year with a road win over Florida State and close games in every single ACC game, and another in a road game against Purdue.
But that’s not the Cardinals team we saw tonight. In fact, it seemed like Louisville did everything it could to lose this game. But unlike in games past, the Orange seized that opportunity instead of returning the favor.
Louisville, a 35 percent 3-point shooting team, was ice-cold from deep with a 5-for-21 final output. And remember, that includes Darius Perry’s three-quarters court buzzer beater and a garbage time wide open three from Ryan McMahon. Not to mention the fact that Louisville stopped attacking and kept misfiring from three, despite the already thin Orange in deep foul trouble.
But credit Syracuse for taking advantage of this. It was extremely efficient all night long, but especially with the guys that needed to be. Frank Howard, Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett have struggled the last couple of games, but the trio combined for 63 points on 46 percent shooting for the night.
However, the biggest thing was that these three seemed re-energized. Isn’t that ironic? The ACC’s top three in minutes played, including Battle who is averaging 40.3 minutes per game in conference play, looked as fresh as they have all year. There were powerful drives from Battle that we haven’t seen since the Virginia Tech game. Howard regained his shooting stroke from three with a 3-for-5 performance after shooting just 3-for-22 in his prior three games. And finally for Brissett, he’s got his bounce back. The freshman has had some thunderous dunks the last couple of games. He’s always flashed potential to throw it down, but now it looks like he’s coming into his own in the ACC in terms of realizing that he’s one of the most athletic players in the conference.
This win was big and it’s sparking the Orange back on the bubble conversation. Syracuse is still going to need a couple more marquee wins and, maybe more importantly, get healthier if it wants to stay in contention for the tournament, but this is a showcase of how good SU can be when it moves the ball and looks competent offensively.