LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Consecutive losses prompted Louisville’s captains to conduct a players-only meeting to sort things out.
That discussion obviously put the No. 11 Cardinals on the same page in many phases considering how they handled Syracuse.
Jordan Nwora scored 17 points, Dwayne Sutton added 16 and Louisville routed the Orange 90-66 on Wednesday night to end a two-game losing streak.
The Cardinals (22-5, 13-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) never trailed the Orange after losses at Georgia Tech and Clemson dropped them six spots in the rankings and out of the conference lead. They stretched a 41-34 halftime lead to double digits early in the second half before an 18-2 run made it 69-44.
Louisville finished with a season high total in ACC play and a 28-point improvement after losing 77-62 last weekend to the Tigers.
“I think the two biggest things that we took away (from the meeting) were that we needed to come out and play with a lot more energy and urgency,” said Louisville guard Ryan McMahon, who made 4 of 10 from long range for 13 points. “And then, play a lot more together on the offensive and defensive end just as a unit.”
Nwora shot just 5 of 18 from the field and 2 of 7 from beyond the arc but regrouped from scoring just seven points the past two games. Louisville shot 47% with 10 3-pointers and controlled the boards 45-36.
Sutton got things going with the first of his three 3-pointers on four attempts before McMahon followed with consecutive 3s. Sutton also grabbed eight rebounds.
Malik Williams had 14 points while matching a career high with 13 rebounds in his first start this season. Steven Enoch had 10 and five rebounds off the bench.
“”They won tonight’s game with their attitude and mentality,” said Cardinals coach Chris Mack, whose team dished out a season-high 23 assists and committed just 10 turnovers.
“They’re playing for one another. The way we executed against Syracuse’s zone was one big factor of getting the shots that we got.”
Buddy Boeheim had 15 points and Quincy Guerrier 14 for Syracuse (14-12, 7-8), which shot 38% and lost its fifth in six games. The Orange made just 11 of 33 after the break.
“The reason we aren’t winning at the end of games is we are not good enough,” said coach Jim Boeheim, who was called for a technical foul in the second half. “Sometimes that’s the case. In effect we’ve played better at the end of games and won those games.
“This group is trying. We just haven’t been good enough. Tonight was a prime example of that.”
The Hall of Fame coach closed his postgame availability with a rant about statistical services such as KenPom.com breaking down areas such as how much a team beats a certain player in a certain defense.
“Craziest thing, I have never heard this until this year,” he added “I’ve been in this a long time. I think I know a little bit about this game. I never heard, ‘Well, this guy is 25% responsible for this case, this guy’s 35%.’ Are you kidding me? I’m telling you, I can get a kindergartener who could tell you better than they can tell you.”
Syracuse: After losing four of their last five by a total of 17 points, the Orange stayed within reach in the first half. Things steadily slipped away in the second as they struggled to limit Louisville’s offensive options, especially from long range. Bourama Sibide (five rebounds, two points) fouled out with 10 minutes left, leaving them more vulnerable inside against the Cardinals.
Louisville: After shooting 34% and 35% respectively in the two losses, the Cardinals were patient and worked the ball around Syracuse’s trademark 2/3 zone defense for looks. They initially succeeded from deep with Sutton and McMahon before working it down low for chances. Nwora struggled from deep despite good looks but created chances elsewhere.
Syracuse: Hosts Georgia Tech on Saturday in search of a season sweep of the Yellow Jackets. The Orange won the first meeting 97-63 in December.
Louisville: Hosts struggling North Carolina on Saturday. The Cardinals won last season 83-62 in Chapel Hill before the Tar Heels answered by winning the next two, including 83-70 in the ACC Tournament.
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