Men's team squeezes Syracuse Orange
By Trevor Joelson
Orange has been theme for the University of Louisville in the month of January. On Jan. 2, the Cardinals defeated Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl and this past Saturday the basketball team defeated the Syracuse University Orange 76-71.
The Cards had just enough juice to get by Syracuse for their fifth Big East win of the season, after only winning six conference games all of last year. They were led by freshman Edgar Sosa, who paced the team in scoring with 19 points.
Sosa overshadowed fellow New York freshman, Paul Harris, who scored zero points in nine minutes for the Orange. Sosa scored 12 of his 19 points in the first half and shot 6-7 from the free throw line. The freshmen trio of Jerry Smith, Earl Clark and Sosa shot 13-17 from the charity stripe.
Sosa and Smith now rank third all time among freshmen duos at U of L with their scoring average. The tandem of guards, who have started in a total of 30 games this season, are ahead of the twosome of Fransisco Garcia and Taquan Dean.
“They are going to stay together and grow into a strong nucleus,” said Louisville head coach Rick Pitino.
Three other Cardinals scored in double figures. David Padgett scored 12 points and added nine rebounds. Terrence Williams scored 11 points and Clark scored 10 points in 18 minutes of play.
However, the Louisville win wasn’t pretty. The Cards were down by as many as fourteen in second half. They shot 36.2 percent from the field and 25 percent from the three-point line, but they hit the shots when it counted most. Williams, who has missed 30 of his last 40 threes, hit two critical threes in the second half when the Cardinals were making a run to come back on Syracuse.
“We are a great second half team,” said Williams.
Junior forward Juan Palacios also made a big second half contribution. After going scoreless in the first half, he scored nine points in the second, starting off the Cardinals’ run.
Rick Pitino credited a great deal of the team’s recent success to the regained health of David Padgett. Padgett has shown up in the big games. He scored 18 against Marquette University and 19 against the University of Connecticut. Padgett had chronic knee problems at the beginning of the season, but Pitino says that he is now better than ever. Padgett has also felt a significant difference.
“It was frustrating at times, but now that I’m feeling better the sky’s the limit,” said Padgett.
The game was the 1,000th of Syracuse head coach, Jim Boeheim’s, tenure. Boeheim has posted a record of 741-259 at Syracuse. He is only the seventh coach in NCAA history to coach 1,000 games with one university. He is currently fifth among active coaches in all time wins.
Syracuse was led by Eric Devendorf, who came off the bench to score 18 points. Syracuse also got solid performances from seniors Terrence Roberts and Demetrius Nichols. Roberts scored 19 points and grabbed nine boards while Nichols, the team’s leading scorer on the season, scored 15.
Even though the Orange outshot the Cards, University of Louisville fans are getting more excited about the Cardinals’ season.
“I was getting pretty down after the losses to Dayton and UMass,” said sophomore business management major Patrick Mayer. “After these past couple games I’m starting to think about basketball in March again.”
Sosa is also looking to improve upon Louisville’s appearance in the NIT last year.
“Coach said people were going to doubt us all season,” said Sosa. “I think we are going to get back to the tournament,” said Sosa.
The Cards are now 5-2 in Big East play and are third in the conference behind Pittsburgh and Marquette. They are 14-6 overall and have won five of their last six games. Despite their recent success, Pitino is making sure to keep his young team humble.
“We are still not over the hump,” said Pitino. “We are very proud, but we are not falling in love with ourselves.”