Cardinals eye up Orange in ACC action

Syracuse, NY ( - Atlantic Coast Conference powers collide in a head-to-head meeting Wednesday as the 12th-ranked Louisville Cardinals travel to face the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome.

Louisville has taken a quick tumble in its past three games, having lost two of them to Virginia (52-47) on Feb. 7, and then most recently to NC State (74-65) on Saturday. The losses dropped the Cardinals back to 8-4 against ACC competition, though Louisville does boast a strong 5-2 record away from home.

Like Louisville, Syracuse is also trying to rebound from losses in two of its last three games. The Orange were defeated by Pittsburgh (83-77) back on Feb. 7, and then were taken down by Duke on Saturday, 80-72. Syracuse is 7-5 against league foes, and owns a 12-3 record at the Carrier Dome this season.

Louisville leads the all-time series between these two teams, 15-7. Syracuse holds a slim 4-3 lead over the Cardinals at home, however. The last time these teams met on the floor was back in the Big East Championship game in March of 2013, which Louisville won, 78-61.

NC State needed a win in the worst way Saturday as the Wolfpack traveled to face Louisville in Kentucky. And a win is just what NC State got after containing Louisville's typically high-powered offense and limiting the Cards to 32.8 percent shooting from the floor. Chris Jones turned on the offensive burners for Louisville in the contest, leading the Cardinals with 20 points in the defeat. Wayne Blackshear contributed 19 points, and Montrezl Harrell secured a team-high 13 rebounds, but added just seven points on a mere 1-of-5 shooting from the field.

It was a tough game for Louisville leading scorer Terry Rozier as well, who connected on 3-of-11 shooting from the floor for seven points. Still, Rozier enters the Wednesday matchup leading the Cardinals with 18.0 ppg this season, which ranks third in the ACC standings. Harrell has typically been a dominant force underneath the basket, connecting on 57.6 percent of his field goal attempts for a 15.4 ppg average, also adding in a team-high 9.3 rpg (ranked third in the category in the conference). Jones (13.6 ppg) and Blackshear (10.9 ppg) round our the group of Cardinals players averaging a scoring figure in the double digits. However, the Cardinals will be a little short-handed in this contest, as Jones has been suspended for a violation of team rules. Louisville's offense tallies 71.6 ppg, and plays stellar defense by limiting opponents to 59.0 ppg on 37.6 percent shooting.

For Syracuse, having to rebound from a tough contest against Duke to take on ranked Louisville in a matter of days will be a giant test. But the Orange held a three-point lead over Duke at halftime of Saturday's ACC clash, 39-36, before the wheels fell off the cart in the second half. Michael Gbinije led the way for the Orange, netting a game-high 27 points with six rebounds and four assists in the loss. Tyler Roberson tallied a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds, while both Trevor Cooney and Rakeem Christmas added 11 points apiece for the Orange, who allowed the Blue Devils to shoot 61.9 percent from the floor in the second half to fuel the comeback.

Christmas has been a force to be reckoned with this season, netting 17.7 ppg (ranked fourth in the conference behind Rozier) on 57 percent shooting (fifth in the conference), adding in 9.2 rpg (also fifth in the conference). His 2.5 blocked shots per outing mark is the second-best average in the ACC behind NC State's Beejay Anya. Cooney (14.6 ppg) and Gbinije (12.9 ppg) round out a trio of double-figure scorers for the Orange this season. Syracuse as a unit is connecting on 44.1 percent of its field goal tries for 69.7 ppg, while the team's zone defense is holding opponents to 63.1 ppg on 39.7 percent shooting.