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Louisville hammers Syracuse, 88-68

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Ray Spalding and Donovan Mitchell led the way in a Cardinal rout Sunday afternoon.

Syracuse v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Louisville got a double-double from Ray Spalding and 25 points from Donovan Mitchell as they beat Syracuse for the second time in 13 days. The Cards didn’t need overtime this go-round, rolling to an 88-68 romp over the Orange.

If Rick Pitino was trying to send some messages with his changes to the team’s starting lineup, it worked.

The starting frontcourt duo of Anas Mahmoud and Ray Spalding was tremendous, with Spalding going nuts on the boards for 18 points and 11 rebounds. Mahmoud, meanwhile, helped pick apart Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone, finishing with eight points, nine rebounds, four steals, two assists and one block.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the lineup changes was freshman V.J. King getting the nod at small forward over Deng Adel. Adel responded by coming off the bench to score 17 points, the bulk of which came in the second half when he was able to get out in front of the Syracuse press.

Other quick notes:

—This was the best ball movement we’ve seen from Louisville since maybe the rout at Pitt. The movement was great outside the three-point line, and the Cardinals’ interior passing was as good as its been at any point this season. U of L finished with 18 assists on 33 made shots.

—When Don plays Syracuse, Don dunks.

—Free-throws are no less of an issue today than they were at the beginning of the week. The Cards were just 13-of-23 from the charity stripe. Syracuse was 20-of-22.

—Four of Louisville’s five starters shot better than 50 percent from the field. The lone exception was King, who was 0-for-2. Deng Adel was 5-for-9 off the bench.

—Rick Pitino said earlier this week that the plan was to rest Tony Hicks this game and then have him ready to go against the up-tempo attack of Wake Forest on Wednesday. Hicks did see the court, but it was for less than a minute at the end of the first half.

—I’ve been swearing since the summer that I saw Jaylen Johnson absolutely light it up from the outside. Perhaps we’ve just been saving that weapon for March.

—This was Syracuse’s worst loss in a conference game since joining the ACC in 2013-14.

—To go 13-5 in the ACC this season would be a fantastic achievement, and one which would almost certainly lock down a No. 2 seed before the team even leaves for Brooklyn. Let’s get it.