No. 15 Louisville will be the last team to take the court for the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, and it probably feels like a long wait for the Cardinals.
That’s because they haven’t played since losing Saturday in the regular-season finale at Virginia.
The Cardinals meet Syracuse on Thursday night in an ACC tournament quarterfinal game at Greensboro, N.C.
It will be the nightcap of the first day of the tournament without spectators in attendance. That decision was announced during the evening session Wednesday night in reaction to the coronavirus scare that’s gripping parts of the country.
“We just need to play off our own energy, and it will take probably a little bit to get used to it,” Syracuse guard Buddy Boeheim said. “But just go out there and treat it like another game.”
Louisville’s 57-54 loss to Virginia gave the Cardinals setbacks in two of their final three games of the regular season. It cost them a shot at holding at least a share of the ACC regular-season title.
“I am disappointed that we couldn’t finish the deal,” Louisville coach Chris Mack said.
As a result, the Cardinals (24-7) slipped to the No. 3 seed for the ACC tournament. Yet their 15-5 record in ACC play reflects their best mark since joining the conference.
Mack did try smaller lineups in the second half of the Virginia game. It could be something the Cardinals try moving forward.
“I think it is a different way to play,” Mack said. “I thought we needed to change things rather than keep going punch-for-punch in the low post with our bigs and their bigs.”
Louisville holds a 2-4 all-time mark in ACC tournament play and it has never reached the semifinals.
In the only previous Louisville-Syracuse game this season, the Cardinals rolled to a 90-66 home victory on Feb. 19.
The Orange showed they could reverse a difficult February loss by the way they played against North Carolina on Wednesday night. Sixth-seeded Syracuse (18-14) handed the Tar Heels their worst loss in ACC tournament history with the 81-53 whipping in the second round.
“We got a great start, and then we were able to keep it up, keep going,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.
The Hall of Fame coach added that he hopes the tournament can go on as scheduled even as it’s slated to exclude fans.
“My hope would be for the players to get to play the games that they’ve worked so hard to get to where they are,” he said.
Syracuse’s Elijah Hughes scored 27 points against North Carolina, appearing fully recovered from an injury sustained in the first half at Miami on Saturday. He banged his head in that game and didn’t play in the second half.
This time, he found a groove.
“Elijah operated on the offensive end, and he had a big first half and then (we) just played off him,” Buddy Boeheim said.
Syracuse received 12 rebounds and 13 points from post player Bourama Sidibe in the North Carolina game.
“He just started playing like that,” Jim Boeheim said. “I don’t know what happened, honestly.”
–Field Level Media