In spite of making only one field goal outside the paint all night, #2 Syracuse snapped a seven-game losing streak to #19 Louisville by squeaking out a 52-51 road win on Monday evening.
The Orange (26-1, 13-1 Big East), who had looked so smooth on offense in Saturday’s victory over Connecticut, simply could not buy a shot from distance, making only one three-pointer in 15 attempts. SU’s defense, however, was strong, forcing the Cardinals (20-6, 8-5) into 16 turnovers, while committing only eight of their own, and holding the hosts to under 35 percent shooting from the floor. The win also ensured Syracuse of a first-round bye in the Big East Tournament.
The Cardinals got out to a solid start, scoring the first two baskets of the game, then later adding six straight points to go up by a 12-5 score after the eight-minute mark. Syracuse clawed back, outscoring Louisville 10-2 to take their first lead of the night at 15-14 with just over five minutes left in the opening half. The two squads traded scores for the remainder of the half until consecutive baskets put the hosts up by four with 33 seconds on the clock. The Orange responded with a lay-up just before time ran out, clipping Louisville’s lead to 24-22 at the break.
The Cardinals nudged their lead back out to five points twice in the opening minutes of the second half, but SU unleashed a 7-0 burst to grab a 32-30 lead with just under four minutes off the clock. Shortly after that, Syracuse strung together an 8-1 run to take their largest lead of the contest at 44-36 with under eight minutes remaining. Louisville turned the tide, though, ripping off a 15-2 run in under four minutes for a 51-46 lead.
Methodically, the Orange came back. A short jump shot by Brandon Triche stopped the bleeding and got the Orange within three. Fab Melo hauled in a defensive rebound and was fouled, then made both ends of the one-and-one to close the margin to 51-50 with just under three minutes left. C.J. Fair dropped in a lay-up and SU was on top by a point with 2:11 to go. Syracuse made that slim margin stand up, forcing a missed shot and a pair of turnovers to slam the door on the Cardinals’ comeback hopes.
C.J. Fair was the leading scorer for the Orange, posting 13 points. Fab Melo was the only other SU player in double figures, scoring 11 points. James Southerland collected a personal-best four steals in only 18 minutes of action.
The Orange are off until Sunday when they have a road game at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights (12-13, 4-8), who have dropped their last three games and five of their last six, take on Notre Dame on Wednesday before the Orange pay them a visit.