Passing leads Louisville offense against Syracuse zone


Louisville men’s basketball passed its way through, around and over Syracuse’s 2-3 zone in a 90-66 victory at the KFC Yum! Center Feb. 19. The Cardinals (22-5 overall, 13-3 in the ACC) finished with a season-high 23 assists on 30 made field goals, shooting 51.6% from the field in the second half.

David Johnson had a team-high seven assists and Dwayne Sutton added five assists as seven different Cardinals finished with an assist. Jordan Nwora scored a team-high 17 points and Sutton had 16 points as five players finished in double figures.

Going up against a 2-3 zone that is used exclusively by Syracuse, Louisville coach Chris Mack expected his team to have a high assist total because it’s harder to score off the dribble against a zone.

“There are different ways to attack it, ultimately you want to get the ball to the high post and make decisions from there,” Mack said. “You want to get into the short corner and make quick decisions because you’re going to get trapped. You want to get two guys to play you so you can free up a teammate.”

Ryan McMahon, who made four three-pointers in the first half, helped Louisville stretch Syracuse’s zone early in the game. McMahon appeared in the starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 28, making his first of four shots from behind the arc two minutes into the game as Louisville scored eight of the first 10 points.

The fifth-year senior said ball movement was an emphasis the last few days at practice.

“I think we peppered the ball around really well, as an offensive player when the ball is getting shared the way it was tonight, everybody knows they are going to get a touch every possession, or multiple touches every possessions, it allows you to get into rhythm to feel out the defense,” McMahon said. “I don’t think we were nearly as stagnant as we were the last two games.”

Louisville shot 7 of 17 on three-point attempts in the first half, but found success in the high post in the second half. Malik Williams became the biggest benefactor as Louisville worked the ball into the free throw line. The junior scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half, many coming on low post entry passes.