By Sam Draut–
With his team leading by 14 points with just over eight minutes left, head coach Rick Pitino called a timeout and ripped into his team that was well on its way to its 14th consecutive 20-win season. Louisville didn’t start the game assured of a win as it fell behind by 12 points early in the first half, but Louisville (20-6 overall, 9-4 in the ACC) went on a 17-4 run to close the deficit.
Trey Lewis hit a three-pointer as the clock expired before halftime to give Louisville a 28-27 lead. After the first half comeback, Louisville put together a dominant second half to defeat Syracuse 72-58. Damion Lee made three 3-pointers in the second half on his way to a team-high 15 points. The graduate transfer added six rebounds and four assists.
“We were a little nervous early in the game because we kept missing shots,” Pitino said. “We started getting really good movement. They executed a beautiful play right before the half, came in with the lead and then from there we just played excellent basketball.”
While staying out of foul trouble for the entirety of the game, Chinanu Onuaku put together his most dominant performance of the season. The sophomore center finished with 13 points, 15 rebounds and four assists. It is Onuaku’s ninth double-double of the year.
“Nanu had a big time game, passing the ball, rebounding the ball, playing good defense,” Pitino said. “He is only scratching his potential.”
Syracuse (18-9 overall, 8-6 in the ACC) trailed 46-40 with 12:27 left, but Louisville went on a 10-0 run to take control of the game. The lead ballooned to 19 points with under four minutes left, but Syracuse scored nine of the final thirteen points.
Louisville scored 50 points in the paint, frequently working the ball inside the interior of Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim’s well-known 2-3 zone. In the second half, Louisville shot 55.6-percent from the field and had 12 assists on 20 made field goals. Quentin Snider led the Cardinals with a team-high six assists despite shooting 2 of 10 from the field.
“Our goal was to get the ball into the paint,” Onuaku said. “We started to move the ball well at the end of the first half.”
Donovan Mitchell started in place of Lewis and had a few highlight reel dunks and scored eight points, but Lewis got into a grove in his reserve role. He made 6 of 11 shots and scored 14 points while pulling down five rebounds. After Louisville’s 71-66 loss to Notre Dame on Saturday, Lewis said he felt hesitant to take shots because of a “short leash.”
Photos by Wade Morgen/The Louisville Cardinal