College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, February 26, 2017
After defeating #10 Duke on Wednesday, 78-75, the Syracuse Orange had reason to be excited over their prospects of receiving an invitation to the NCAA championship tournament.
That thrill faded quickly, however, as the unranked Orange were devastated at Louisville by the #7 Cardinals, 86-66.
The culprit was defense, or, in the Syracuse case, the lack thereof, that led to the lopsided loss. The Cardinals shot a healthy 57% from the field, including a solid 45% (9-for-20) from three-point range, as Syracuse defenders were often out of position in their trademark 2-3 zone. Another fallback of the zone was in rebounding, where Louisville held a 39-28 advantage.
Topping the scoring barrage was Louisville's sophomore guard, Donovan Mitchell, who was 9-for-16, including six threes, amassing 25 points over 35 minutes of court time.
The 6'3" native of Greenwich, Connecticut added four assists, five rebounds, and a pair of steals to his outstanding performance.
Louisville penetrated and found the open man repeatedly throughout the onslaught, with a team total of 18 assists on 33 buckets. Tied with Notre Dame and Florida State at 11-5 in the ACC, the Cardinals are two games back of conference leader, North Carolina. An overall record of 23-6 has the Cardinals as high as a #3 seed heading into March Madness.
With only one game left in the regular season, Syracuse likely needs a win over visiting Georgia Tech, this Saturday, March 4, and a win in the opening round of the conference tournament to make a case for inclusion into the NCAA field. With the Louisville defeat their fourth in five games, the Orange are on the bubble, or, the ropes for tourney inclusion. The Yellow Jackets topped the Orange, 71-65, on February 19.