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    Something’s afoot with the 12th ranked University of Louisville basketball Cardinals. (20-6, 8-45ACC) Wednesday, they traveled to the Carrier Dome to face former Big East rival Syracuse (17-9, 8-5) but they did so without starting point guard and, more recently, prolific scorer Chris Jones. His absence led to a loss of 69-59. 

    Of course, Cardinal head coach Rick Pitino had no comment on the matter. That’s his usual stance. Various sources report that Jones’s suspension from the team is one game or indefinite, but it is believed to be a non-athletic issue. Whichever is the case, Louisville missed 13 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals in a game against Jim Boeheim’s Orange squad. In Jones’s stead, freshman Quenin Snider got the start.

    Syracuse has had it’s share of trouble this year. Due to an NCAA investigation of past infractions in the program, the school decided to impose a post season ban on itself. That includes the ACC tournament, the NCAA tournament and even the NIT. The probe at the national level is on going.

    So with all that going on, the Cards went into battle shorthanded after being embarrassed by North Carolina State at home last Saturday. Not only Jones, but Wayne Blackshear is still recovering from a hip injury. He carried Louisville in the first half against the Wolf Pack but disappeared in the second. 

    Both teams opened the game with good offensive execution and played evenly, going score for score. Snider didn’t embarrass himself at the point, but the ball tended to go into Terry Rozier’s hands once the ball was in the front court.

    Where Louisville had problems, was stopping Syracuse star Rakeem Christmas. When he went to the rim Chinanu Onuaku and Anas Mahmoud had trouble stopping him. As a giant senior going against tall but underweight freshmen centers, when Christmas got open, he couldn’t be stopped. However, early foul trouble had him sit for an extended time in the first half.

    Louisville did go through another of those long scoring droughts, but thankfully nothing as long as the NC State desert. As the clock ran to 6 minutes without a bucket, Pitino had to have it on his mind.

    The Cards entered the break leading 32-28 on the strength of 12 points from Harrell and 9 from Rozier. Onuaku put in 4 points but more importantly collected 6 rebounds in front of his brother Arinze’s old school. Even David Levitch saw some playing time and contributed a deflection.

    In the second half, Louisville played okay but had some struggles. Blackshear got into more foul trouble without contributing a point. And when Harrell went to the free throw line, it was pretty much a crap shoot.

    Harrell and Rozier did their best to carry the team without Jones, while Snider contributed double figures. With Blackshear as a non-factor offensively, the other front line players had to defend or feed the scorers. Onuaku did a good job cleaning up the glass, but you don’t look for points from the Cardinal 5 spot. Ever.

    Nearly 8 minutes left in the game, both starting forwards played with 4 fouls. Was the coach sensing danger? Meanwhile the Orange got into a rhythm and simultaneously kept the Cards from scoring. Every time Louisville got close there was another momentum shifting foul call, usually from whoever guarded Christmas.

    And then with 5 minutes to go, Blackshear fouled out. 0 points and 1 assist? Talk about having a bad game. It was almost as if Louisville had two suspended players, and with the  Cards problems scoring off the bench, nails were bitten in the last few minutes.

    For the game, Rozier led the scoring again with 17. Harrell knocked down 15 points and corralled 10 rebounds. Snider turned in his best game with 13 points and 4 assists and Onuaku earned his starting spot with 8 points and 11 rebounds. On the other side, Christmas clobbered the interior of the Cardinal defense, scoring 28 points and pulling in 8 boards.

    Next, Louisville faces an at home battle against Miami. Game time at the KFC Yum! Center is 2pm, also airing on ESPN. 

    Photo by: Tim Girton/Louisville.com

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    About Tim Girton

    Tim Girton writes about University of Louisville sports here at Louisville.com and his love for Louisville continues on his photoblog, called This Is Louisville.

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