Louisville too strong for Syracuse, Cardinals end Orange ACC Tournament run, 72-59

SU ACC Tournament run ended by Louisville, 72-59

Emily Engstler reaches season-high 21 points in the loss.
Published: March 6, 2021
Syracuse's Kiara Lewis puts up a shot during an NCAA college basketball game with Syracuse in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C., on Saturday, March 6, 2021.
Syracuse's Kiara Lewis puts up a shot during an NCAA college basketball game with Syracuse in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C., on Saturday, March 6, 2021.

The Orange fell 72-59 to No. 1 ranked Louisville in the ACC Tournament semifinals on Saturday. Down six players heading into Saturday’s contest after Priscilla Williams took a hard fall in Friday’s win against Florida State, the Orange had to rely on Kiara Lewis, Emily Engstler, Kamilla Cardoso, Digna Strautmane, Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi, Amaya Finklea-Guity and Ava Irvin.

Lewis was the only guard for Syracuse with Tiana Mangakahia out for her third straight game with a lower body injury.

Syracuse was 1-1 against the Cardinals in the ACC Tournament heading into the semifinal matchup. In 2016, the Orange beat Louisville in the semifinals to advance to their first ever ACC championship game but just last year, Louisville topped the Orange in the quarterfinal game. In their one regular season battle this season, ‘Cuse fell to the Cardinals, 67-54.

Djaldi-Tabdi saw her second start of the season and Strautmane won the initial tip off for the Orange but Syracuse struggled early and allowed many Louisville defensive rebounds. Although Engstler got the first two points of the game, Louisville’s Kiana Smith answered for Louisville with a three, putting the Cardinals up 3-2.

Djaldi-Tabdi put up her first two points of the game with 10 seconds left on shot clock, but a short time after, a quick turnover ensued as Lewis overthrew the ball and Strautmane was unable to connect with the lob.

Louisville grabbed the early 7-4 lead but Cardoso fought back with two made shots at the line. Lewis picked up her first foul around four minutes into the first quarter, extending the Cardinals’ lead to three.

Engstler sunk a jumper to bring Syracuse within one, but the Orange ran into foul trouble as Engstler picked up her first foul of the game, and the third for Syracuse, just four minutes into the first quarter.

A scoring run for Louisville brought them to a six-point lead over SU but the Cardinals’ Olivia Cochran saw some foul trouble herself as she picked up her second with four and a half minutes to go in the first quarter. Lewis sunk both of her chances from the line, but Elizabeth Dixon came back with two more off a made layup and Louisville extended their lead once again, 16-10.

Both teams saw a brief scoring drought, but fouls were aplenty. Following a travel turnover by the Cardinals, as Engstler brought it up, Lewis pushed Robinson out of the way and picked up her second. Strautmane added her name to the foul list as she picked up her second foul with 2:14 remaining in the first quarter.

A Syracuse shot clock violation with 1:18 to go in the first quarter led to a 3-point bucket from the Cardinals and the end to the scoreless run. Cardoso picked up an and-one 30 seconds later, and the Orange was back within six and that took them to the end of the quarter, down 19-13.

Syracuse's Maeva DjaldiÐTabdi pu lls down an offensive rebound during an NCAA college basketball game with Louisville in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C., on Saturday, March 6, 2021.
Syracuse's Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi pulls down an offensive rebound during an NCAA college basketball game with Louisville in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C., on Saturday, March 6, 2021.

Louisville’s Kianna Smith started out the second with her seventh point and the Cardinals extended their lead to eight.

Djaldi-Tabdi grabbed the turn-around jumper to bring the Orange within six, but Ahlana Smith wanted nothing to do with that and returned with two of her own to erase the advancement Djaldi-Tabdi just made for Syracuse. Cochran logged her second foul of the first half and extended her foul trouble from Friday’s game against Wake Forest but Hailey Van-Lith made up for that by sinking a three and strengthened Louisville’s lead to 11.

Djaldi-Tabdi picked up her first foul as Finklea-Guity entered the game for Cardoso and the score sat at 26-15, Louisville. But the Cardinals saw a three-second violation with seven minutes to go in the second and Engstler managed to bring Syracuse within nine off the turnover. After Kianna Smith responded with a jumper, Engstler was sent to the line by Dixon and Dixon joined the two-foul club alongside fellow Cardinal Cochran. The two free throws brought Engstler to eight points.

Syracuse struggled to score for the next minute until Strautmane popped one in after two misses by Finklea-Guity and one from Djaldi-Tabdi. Strautmane continued her run at the other end, putting up defensive pressure with a huge block on Dana Evans.

The Orange’s 6-0 run was ended by an Evans layup in the paint and the score landed at 30-23. At this point, SU had nine turnovers and were 0-5 for three-point attempts but had 14 points in paint, with the rest of their points coming from the free throw line. Looking quite similar to Friday with Syracuse trailing for most of the game, Djaldi-Tabdi brought ‘Cuse back within five. But on the other end, Norika Konno brought Louisville back to a seven-point, 32-25 lead.

The back-and-forth continued as Lewis sunk her first field goal of game, reducing the deficit to 5 again, but Konno responded with a three and Syracuse was back down by eight this time. Lewis found herself fouled on a 3-point attempt and made all three from the line so ‘Cuse was back within five, and with the made shots, SU was 10-for-10 at the line.

As the clock wound down, it was Orange ball and Louisville picked up their fourth foul, Maeva missed a three-point attempt and Engstler tallied her second foul, sending Evans to the line to pick up two more to extend the Louisville lead to 37-30 as the clock hit zero.

Syracuse's Emily Engstler reaches for a rebound during an NCAA college basketball game with Louisville in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C., on Saturday, March 6, 2021.
Syracuse's Emily Engstler reaches for a rebound during an NCAA college basketball game with Louisville in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C., on Saturday, March 6, 2021.

Strautmane started the Orange off strong in the third quarter, decreasing their deficit to five but Evans was quick to respond, and the score was 39-32.

It was layup central for both teams as Cochran and Mykasa Robinson sunk two apiece for Louisville and Cardoso brought Syracuse within seven. Robinson continued her scoring streak, getting fouled on a layup three minutes into the third by Cardoso, bringing the score to 46-36. Neither team went on scoring runs, however, as back-and-forth points were tallied on both ends for the next three minutes.

After another big block by Strautmane, the Cardinals saw many more opportunities but were unable to see any of them go until after Strautmane registered her third foul of the game and Dixon added two more to make it an 11-point game. Engstler battled back to bring Syracuse back within eight with 1:50 to go in the third, rattling a 3-pointer and picking up her 17th point of the game. However, Konno answered with a three on the opposite end to extend Louisville’s lead back to 11.

Cardoso was then fouled by Dixon for her third and Cardoso sunk one-of-two to cut into the Cardinals’ lead by one. Strautmane tried to add to the mix but missed the 3-point attempt and as Djaldi-Tabdi tried to grab the rebound, she ended up turning over the ball instead.

Lewis picked up her third foul with five seconds to go in the third quarter and Louisville gained their largest lead of the game, 59-47. With that, the Orange headed to the final quarter trailing 12 after Evans completed both free throws.

Konno was the first to score for either team at the start of the fourth quarter following Djaldi-Tibdi picking up her second personal of the game. Konno sunk her 10th point of the game to make it 61-47. After missed attempts on both sides of the court, Djaldi-Tibdi grabbed the and-one for her ninth point of the game, bringing ‘Cuse within 11 with eight minutes to go in regulation.

Engslter reached a season-high 20 points with a made 3-pointer with 7:09 remaining and the Orange were back within eight. However, the excitement was short-lived as Engstler picked up her third foul and Louisville goes back up by 10, 63-53.

After multiple Orange attempts, it was Engstler’s turn at the line and she sunk one of two while Kianna Smith logged her first bucket after half time with 5:13 to go. Djaldi-Tabdi’s second-chance layup put her in double figures for the second straight game and brought Syracuse within nine. But Djaldi-Tabdi picked up her third personal shortly after, sending Evans to the line to lift Louisville back to a 10-point lead.

Dixon extended the Cardinal lead to 11 after Finklea-Guity logged a point off two free throw attempts, but Cardoso’s last-ditch effort put her in double figures with a made layup off an offensive turnover.

Unfortunately, it was all Louisville from there. Evans returned with two for the Cardinals and pushed them back up to 70-59 and Dixon extended the Cardinals lead to 13 with 39 seconds remaining, resulting in a 72-59 win for Louisville and signaled the end of Syracuse’s ACC Tournament run.

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is a magazine, news and online graduate student and sports lead producer for The NewsHouse.