Rakeem Christmas bounced back in Syracuse’s spectacular 69-59 win over the Louisville Cardinals. Wednesday’s win over Louisville was Syracuse’s first victory over a ranked team this season, as they finally got over the hump in a close game. In large part, the winning result was due to Christmas’ dominant performance.
After his offensive struggles in the loss to Duke, Christmas hit 9-10 shots for 29 points, and grabbed eight rebounds. He was also 11-13 from the foul line in what should be considered a career performance. Christmas added four blocks, including a monster pin of Montezl Harrell’s lay up attempt in the first half.
This was the first meeting between the two schools since Louisville’s stunning turnaround in the 2013 Big East Championship game. Now it was Syracuse’s time to turn the tables on the struggling Louisville Cardinals.
After trailing early in the game, Syracuse fought back to cut the halftime deficit to four points. The second half was a much different story for the Orange. Without the services of Chris Jones, Louisville struggled to score all night. Part of the reason was their inability to penetrate the zone from the point guard position.
For the first 30 minutes, Syracuse was fighting an uphill battle. Louisville’s biggest lead of seven was matched early in the second half. However, the Orange constantly made plays to keep in contact. If it wasn’t Christmas, it was Michael Gbinije’s ability to dominate the game from the perimeter. Gbinije continued his torrid shooting to drop in 18 points, six assists, and five rebounds. He even made 5-6 foul shots in the game.
Montrez Harrell played a good game in stretches, but disappeared offensively late in the game. Harrell finished with 15 points, and nine rebounds. However, Harrell was disappointing from the foul line in the loss. Still, his tenacity kept the Cardinals in the game.
Both teams had a couple of poor performances from key players. Louisville’s Wayne Blackshear registered a couple of turnovers, while fouling out. Otherwise, it was hard to tell he was on the court. Meanwhile, Trevor Cooney hit his first three of the game, and proceeded to miss his next nine shots from the field.
Syracuse improved to (17-9, 8-5), while Louisville fell to (20-6, 8-5) in the ACC. Both teams are tied for fourth place in conference play. Louisville plays an important game against Miami on Saturday. Syracuse has a rematch with Pittsburgh in the Carrier Dome.