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Saturday, March 3, 4:00 p.m. (ET)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Carrier Dome (34,616) -- Syracuse, New York. Television: CBS. Home Record: UofL 16-4, SU 18-0. Away Record: UofL 6-4, SU 9-1. Neutral Record: UofL 0-0, SU 2-0. Conference Record: UofL 10-7, SU 16-1. Series Record: Louisville leads, 13-5.
GAME NOTES: Hoping to wrap up one of their most successful regular seasons ever, the second-ranked Syracuse Orange entertain the 19th-ranked Louisville Cardinals today in Big East Conference action.
Louisville brings a 22-8 record, which includes a 10-7 league ledger into this afternoon's affair, and the team is hoping to pull off the upset and carry some much-needed momentum into next week's Big East Tournament. The Cardinals are coming off a 58-51 loss at home to USF, and they have actually dropped two of their last three and three of their last five games overall. UofL is 6-4 in true road bouts this season, and has won four of its last five away from the KFC Yum! Center.
Syracuse has been nearly perfect this season, logging an incredible 29-1 overall record, which includes a 16-1 mark against conference foes. The Orange won their 10th Big East regular-season title and secured the top seed in the upcoming conference tourney, and they are 18-0 at home this year. The team's lone setback came at Notre Dame (67-58) on Jan. 21, and since that time SU has reeled off nine consecutive victories, the latest being a 71-69 decision at UConn last Saturday -- coach Jim Boeheim's 400th in Big East play.
Louisville owns a 13-5 lead in the all-time series with Syracuse, but the Orange slipped past the Cardinals in a 52-51 final on the road just last month.
Louisville's strength this season has been its play at the defensive end, as foes are generating just 62.1 ppg in hitting a mere 37.8 percent of their field goal attempts. The Cardinals have favorable margins in both rebounding (+2.0) and turnovers (+1.0), and they boast three double-digit scorers in the form of Kyle Kuric (13.1 ppg), Russ Smith (12.0 ppg) and Chris Smith (10.3 ppg), with three others (Gorgui Dieng (9.6 ppg), Chane Behanan (9.3 ppg) and Peyton Siva (8.6 ppg)) close to joining them. Dieng (9.0 rpg) is the team's top rebounder, while Siva (5.5 apg) serves as its primary playmaker. Chris Smith and Kuric both scored 14 points in the recent loss to USF, as the team shot just 34.0 percent from the floor, missing 17 of its 22 three-point tries along the way. The Cardinals were also beaten badly on the boards (40-29), and they failed to win the game despite goading the Bulls into 18 turnovers.
Syracuse has also played stellar defense this season, allowing 60.6 ppg on typical shooting outputs of 38.6 percent overall and 31.1 percent from three- point range. The Orange are pretty much even in terms of rebounding margin (-0.8), but they take full advantage of the 17 turnovers per outing committed by the opposition. From an offensive standpoint, the team relies more on a balanced attack than any one go-to guy, although Kris Joseph is certainly worthy of an opponent's attention as he averages 14.2 ppg behind a 36.8 percent shooting effort from beyond the arc. Dion Waiters (11.9 ppg) is the team's only other double-digit scorer, but he does his damage off the bench. In all, seven guys average at least 6.6 ppg for a Syracuse team that simply knows how to play together, and more importantly, win together. Joseph scored 21 points to lead the Orange past UConn last weekend, and he got help from Fab Melo (11 points) and Waiters (10 points). SU shot just 43.8 percent from the field, but held the Huskies to 40.3 percent.
As solid a team as Louisville may be, handing Syracuse its first home loss in the final regular-season game isn't likely to happen. Expect the Orange to thank their fans for their unwavering support, as the they complete an unbelievable campaign on a positive note.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Syracuse 70, Louisville 62
03/03 10:45:24 ET
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