CRAWFORD | Three takeaways from Louisville's 69-59 loss at Syrac - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Three takeaways from Louisville's 69-59 loss at Syracuse

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Wayne Blackshear reacts after fouling out with no points in 19 minutes in a 10-point loss at Syracuse. Wayne Blackshear reacts after fouling out with no points in 19 minutes in a 10-point loss at Syracuse.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — For the first time this season, the University of Louisville has lost consecutive games after a painfully poor final 10 minutes against Syracuse in a 69-59 loss to the Orange in the Carrier Dome Wednesday night.

Playing without starting point guard Chris Jones — suspended indefinitely for an undisclosed violation of team rules — the Cardinals started solidly, got promising offensive contributions from the center position, and got good offensive play from freshman point guard Quentin Snider.

But the Cardinals could not contain Syracuse center Rakeem Christmas. He finished with 29 points and led a 22-9 run late in the game that put Syracuse into command.

“Normally, you know how I am after a loss,” U of L coach Rick Pitino told Bob Valvano after the game during his Tom Drexler postgame show produced by Learfield Sports. “I'm disappointed we lost, but I'm proud of our team. In the second half, we just missed shots. We had two wide-opens in the corner, we had a missed dunk on a breakaway.”

Pitino said his team's other big problem is on defense.

“Our No. 1 problem is we've been a great defensive team, and we're a very poor defensive team,” he said. “We're matching up fine and doing the things from the scouting report fine, we just can't guard the dribbler. We keep getting beat off the bounce on every play. … That's our basic weakness. It's not team defense, it's just one guy getting beat, but we'll continue to work on it. But I'm really happy with our guys. They shared the ball, had a great attitude, they were dying to win this game. We're disappointed with the loss, but we just have to focus now on Miami. We've got to get out of this losing streak. We're not down about this, but we've got to get the next game. We've got to get out of this.”

1. ANOTHER CENTER GOES BIG. The Cardinals' ability to defend the post seems to have devolved as the season has progressed. While they were fairly effective in an eight-point loss to Kentucky, quality big men have torched them since.

Wake Forest's Justin Thomas went 11 of 14 from the field and finished with 31 points. Duke's Jahlil Okafor went 8 for 10 and finished with 18 points. Wednesday it was Christmas' turn. He went 9 of 10 from the field and 11 of 13 from the line.

U of L fouled him, waved at him, and on four of his scores didn't guard him at all, losing him in their zone. His performance outshined what U of L was able to do offensively from the center spot.

“We didn't stop him, but nobody's been able to handle him,” Pitino said. “He even got fouled in the Duke game but they wouldn't give him the calls. Tonight they made their free throws when we fouled their three poor free-throw shooters.”

Chinanu Onuaku had eight points and 11 rebounds. Anas Mahmoud had four points and a rebound. But neither could accomplish a defensive presence, and when Montrezl Harrell picked up his fourth foul with more than seven minutes remaining, U of L's interior defense disappeared.

2. WHERE WAS WAYNE? It was a night to forget for Wayne Blackshear. His team needed more from him, in Jones' absence, instead it got very little. He got into foul trouble early and was never a factor in the game. He fouled out in 19 minutes, and had 0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists and 0 steals.

ESPN Stats and Info reported that Blackshear was the first ACC starter to go without a point, rebound or assist since Seth Curry for Duke did it in 2011.

Freshman Shaqquan Aaron was on the bench, but did not play in the game.

3. SNIDER DELIVERS IN FIRST START. Rick Pitino said he knew what to expect of Snider — good offense, not much defense. That's what he got. Snider had 13 points and four assists in his first start, but committed five second-half fouls and had trouble stopping penetration of the U of L zone, leading to a big inside edge for Syracuse.

“Q played terrific,” Pitino said. “Defensively he has a long way to go. But he did fine. He took two big shots from the corner late that didn't go down. He penetrated fine. He passed the ball. He actually, to tell you the truth, in running the zone offense did a much better job than Chris Jones does, because he got the ball moving. He didn't dribble, dribble, dribble. When he hit the lane he didn't waste a lot of time. You couldn't expect any more. But I expected that from him tonight. Usually guys step up and give it to you. . . . We're real proud of Q and the job he did. . . . I knew nothing would bother that kid. I told our guys, our problem is not going to be Q tonight, it'll be somewhere else. He'll rise to the occasion. Our problem is our defense.”

Other factors for U of L: Poor free-throw shooting. Rozier missed a huge front-end of a one-and-one late when two makes would've gotten the Cardinals to within four, while Syracuse made 21 of 27 from the line. Rozier finished with 17 points, but went 6 of 18 from the field to do it. After going to Harrell on almost every possession early, U of L went away from that, and he rarely saw the ball late. Not surprisingly, their offense disappeared. Of the Cards 54 shots, 20 were from three-point range. They made only six. They shot 50 percent (17 of 34) from two-point range.

READ MORE FROM ERIC CRAWFORD AND RICK BOZICH AT WDRB.COM

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