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Sunday, Feb 26, 2017 at 11:10 pm

Louisville Smacks Syracuse, Halts Momentum

By Paul Mancano LOUISVILLE, KY— An opportunity to potentially lock up an NCAA Tournament bid went wasted as #7 Louisville blitzed Syracuse 88-68 Sunday at the KFC Yum! Center.

The 20-point loss was the Orange’s worst since December 21, when St. John’s blew out SU 93-60.

Louisville had a 16-point lead at halftime and never looked back.

“We just got in a hole and couldn’t climb out,” Coach Jim Boeheim said after the game.

Freshman Tyus Battle carried the offensive load for the Orange, scoring 20 points. Sophomore Tyler Lydon finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Defensively, the Orange had no answer for guard Donovan Mitchell, who led all scorers with 25 points. Fellow sophomore Ray Spalding also chipped in 18 on a highly efficient 8-for-9 performance.

Louisville dominated the first 20 minutes. The Cardinals opened up an 11-2 lead in the first three minutes. Battle and Syracuse responded with a 15-2 run to take a 17-13 lead. Battle and Lydon scored all of SU’s first 17 points.

But the lead was short-lived. The Cardinals cleaned up their act on offense, sparking a 23-4 run. A balanced attack, led by Snider’s 11 first half points, gave Louisville a 41-25 halftime lead.

Unable to penetrate Rick Pitino’s stout defense, the Orange shot most of its shots from deep in the first half. Battle led the way for SU with 14 points at the break.

In the second, Syracuse came out in a full-court press. It worked momentarily, as Louisville committed seven second-half turnovers. The Orange cut the lead to 11 with 9:08 to play. But SU got no closer.

“They’re relentless with their defense,” Gillon said. “Regardless of the score, they’re going to stay in a press. We should’ve made them pay for it by scoring off of the press, but we didn’t.”

Donovan Mitchell had the exclamation point: a one-handed alley-oop from Quentin Snider with 1:16 left.

SU has one more opportunity to pad its resume before ACC Tournament play starts. Georgia Tech comes to the Carrier Dome next Sunday. The Yellow Jackets beat the Orange 71-65