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Louisville 61, Syracuse 50

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If you hadn't been already, it's time to get excited.

Games against Pitt, Georgetown, Notre Dame and Villanova with a shot at a regular season title on the line. The Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden. The greatest Sunday of the calendar year. And then a shot at immortality in the NCAA Tournament.

This is what makes the 10-hour work day tolerable, the dinner table conversations about washing machines interesting, and the full body wax at that shady salon downtown painless (don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about). It's what we've waited all year for, so for the love of God enjoy and embrace it.

Fifty points? Save all the exhaustion and short bench talk. Fifty points?

It was the first time Syracuse had been held under 60 points this season. They had led the league in field goal percentage coming into the game, but were held (16-of-55, 29.1%) 19.9% below their season average. And leading scorers Donte Greene, Johnny Flynn and Paul Harris were all held below their season averages.

Sure fatigue played a role in this (I think Greene was napping for the last two and-a-half minutes), but it was still a phenomenal achievement against a team as gifted, and as trigger happy as the Orange.

T-Will made a lot of jaw-dropping plays in the second half, but it was an uncontested mid-range baseline jumper that may have saved the game. The visitors had just crept to within two with 1:40 to play, and all the life had been sucked out of the building. If Williams misses that shot then the crowd stays out of the game and a little jump is shot into five pairs of dead SU legs.

We all know he can go coast-to-coast and drop the hammer on anyone in Division I, but his ability to stick an open 15-footer with the game still very much in doubt was one of the most encouraging things about last night.

I'm really happy that Andre McGee had a game like that so that he can finally get at least a little bit of the credit he deserves for playing the way he has all season. The defense and the positive attitude have been there night in and night out regardless of whether or not the shots have been falling, and you can't have enough people like that on a team.

I thought Edgar Sosa played well for the most part, but this post on ITV was pretty astonishing.

I'll post the full plus-minus ratings soon, but I just noticed that Louisville won by 24 while McGee played tonight and lost by 13 while Sosa played.  That's a pretty extreme swing.

Sosa's stints:

Louisville leading 8-6 to trailing 12-17
Louisville leading 26-24 to tied 26-26
Louisville leading 39-31 to leading 52-48

That's a deficit of 30-17 with Sosa in the game and a 44-20 win with McGee in the game.

We've still got to have Sos to make any sort of run in March, but McGee's Brady Anderson-esque emergence from relative obscurity has been an extraordinary boon.

Other people have their Tim Higgins or Jim Burr or Ted Valentine. Me, I've been riding the Curtis Shaw bandwagon pretty hard for about two and-a-half years now. Simply put, the man is a bigger attention whore than the sluttiest girl you knew (or know) in high school. I'd also be willing to bet that his choice in clothing is similarly questionable.

Still, he didn't make the most unforgivable call of the night (the Jerry Smith charge). You won this round Burr backers, but just wait until March when Curtis knows that an animated call in a tense situation will really shift the focus to him.

He hasn't received nearly as much credit as he did after the Georgetown or Providence games, but I thought this was the best total effort Earl Clark has given since the start of Big East play. He was again a beast on the boards, he was sound and effective in the zone, and he played more under control on offense than he has all season. He played less (25 minutes) than he had in four of the last five games so his stats weren't quite as eye-catching, but him learning how to be aggressive and under control simultaneously is a huge and crucial step for both his game and this team.  

This was one of those games where we needed a solid stretch from DC and he delivered, but his heart still doesn't appear to be there the same way it was a month ago. It was disappointing to see both he and Sosa sitting expressionless on the bench when McGee knocked down the triple that sealed the deal. Both players - especially Derrick - need to understand that the best thing for them personally is for this team to make a huge run in March, and a healthy contribution from both of them is necessary for that to happen.

Last night also marked the return of the Caracter foul (attaboy Curts), as both Derrick's second and fourth fouls didn't actually happen.

Preston Knowles' defense feeds 10,000 starving children each morning.

The Johnny Flynn offensive foul sequence was then most excited I got all game. Preston comes out and challenges Flynn by getting a hand on the ball and then getting right up into him, Flynn then backs up and gives an "all right, let's do this" look, he then tries to beat Preston with a cross and fails, tries to beat him with speed and fails, and then finally just pushes Preston with his off-hand and gets called for the offensive foul.

The kid is a hero.

Fifty points?

Last night was a huge breakthrough in this team's continuing education in learning how to achieve the best looking final score possible. People all over the country who were unable to watch the game now think that we were that much more impressive because Jerry Smith finished that spread-busting dunk to make the score 61-50 and not 59-50.

It was a proud moment for me personally.

I was a big fan of the win Monday/enjoy it until Saturday sequence at first, but with a six-day layoff looming, I'm already feeling a little ornery. If I haven't wantonly stared down someone way smaller than I (or someone over 80) by Thursday afternoon, then you can chalk another surprising victory up to maturity.

Donte Greene's post up of Terrence Williams followed by an impossible to defend turnaround jumper had to make 'Cuse fans wonder for the 800th time why he spends so much time outside of the three-point line. People get on T-Will for not going to the basket more when he's 1-for-4 from three, and here's the 6-11 Greene going 1-for-10 from beyond the arc. Take it to the rack young man.

I didn't have as much of a problem with Will Scott playing last night as I did in the Connecticut and St. John's games. We didn't have anyone who was knocking down the open shot and Syracuse's zone doesn't put a great deal of pressure on the ball, so his inability to handle it (or pass it) wasn't really going to hurt. Still, it has now been seven weeks since his last made field goal.

I've been trying to think of a worse realistic 2-on-1 scenario for us than Scott and Palacios with Donte Greene defending, and I'm coming up with nothing. The fact that we scored is a minor miracle.

Awesome to see Marques Maybin at the game and still sporting that same enormous smile. He was a phenomenal athlete and is, by all accounts, a great person.

Have I mentioned that I'm excited? Because I'm excited.

Go Cards.