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ACC Roundup - Two Tight Games Plus A Controversial Call!

February is so much fun.

Louisville v Syracuse
SYRACUSE, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 7: Chris Bell #4 of the Syracuse Orange shoots the ball against the Louisville Cardinals during the second half at the JMA Wireless Dome on February 7, 2024 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse won 94-92.
Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images

In Wednesday’s ACC Action, Pitt took out NC State in Raleigh 67-64 and Syracuse survived Louisville 94-92.

NC State is not an elite team at this point but that’s not to say they’re an easy team to beat. They beat the snot out of Duke last year. That team can punch you right in the face and if you don’t punch back you’re going to have a long night.

Pitt didn’t back down, taking a 14-8 lead. State tied it up at 30-30 but Pitt hit an eight-point run and went into the half up 38-30.

It was back-and-forth in the second half with Pitt going up then State cutting back the lead again.

The Pack took the lead at 58-56 with 6:30 to go but only briefly. Pitt went back up and maintained a small lead until the clock ran out. State had a dreadful night from the line, hitting just 6-15 and that cost them.

With the win, the Panthers got back to .500 in the ACC and 15-8 overall while NC State fell to 7-5 in the conference and 15-8 overall.

DJ Burns basically abused the skinnies - you can call Pitt’s post players the skinnies because they all are - outscoring Federiko Federiko (four points) and Guillermo Diaz-Graham (also four points) 19-8. However, Federiko had a terrific night on the boards, pulling down 10.

The key for Pitt though was the guard play. Freshmen Carlton Carrington had 12 points and seven boards while Jaland Lowe finished with 20 points.

That’s the good news. The bad?

Next up is Virginia at Virginia. And while Duke should have had a chance to beat Virginia at the line last season, according to the ACC which recognized the officials blew the last call of the game, no one has won at UVA for a while. So if Pitt does, well, that’s a great sign for Jeff Capel’s team.

By the way, obviously Jeff and Jason Capel are brothers, but here’s an interesting question: can you think of a team at any level where the staff had a Duke and UNC former player working together?

While losing to Louisville would have been the pits (get it?), Syracuse, fresh out of Bennys, didn't do that. Not that it was a sure thing.

Louisville was pretty good in some ways. The Cards won the boards 40-21. It had a massive advantage on second-chance points (by 20 points).

But Syracuse killed the Cards in transition, 33-6. And Louisville didn’t help themselves with 17 turnovers while the Orange had just 10. Plus Syracuse had an 11 point advantage at the free throw line.

Which gets us to the heart of the problem for Louisville Wednesday night which was defense.

For one thing, good defensive fundamentals wouldn't have put Syracuse on the line so much. And for another, while Chris Bell is a promising player, who shoots 8-10 from three point land if he’s being heavily guarded?

Bell finished with 30 points. That’s an enormous advantage. His last one was illustrative: Tre White was probably so freaked out by his barrage that he didn't even consider not lunging for the block. Bell wasn’t even shooting: he just caught the ball and let White soar past him. In the words of Larry Bird: “fly, birdie.”

Bell just stepped to the left and nailed a wide-open jumper.

Even so, after Skyy Clark tied the game 92-92, Quadir Copeland came down for yet another Syracuse fast break and it was blocked. But a teammate picked it up and dunked it with :03 left.

As it turned out, the refs called goaltending, but even if they hadn’t, the dunk would have counted.

Louisville has moments now where they don’t play like a basketball invalid, but not consistently yet. However, they have certainly shown some signs of improvement.

No games until Saturday when the highlight is probably the ancient NC State-Wake Forest rivalry. But there’s more. Lots more.

And we’ll talk about it all Friday.

ACC Standings