It was a trying day for #6 Syracuse, but the struggle was worth it, as they toppled #1 Louisville on the road to grab sole possession of the Big East lead, 70-68, marking the fourth time a Jim Boeheim team has defeated the top-ranked team in the country. With the Orange (17-1, 5-0 Big East) still missing the suspended James Southerland, Brandon Triche’s superior shooting and Michael Carter-Williams’ ability to overcome a difficult day helped the team come back to nip the Cardinals (16-2, 4-1).
Triche knocked down 9-of-13 shots, including all seven of his attempts in the first half, to power the SU offense. Backcourt mate Carter-Williams struggled for large portions of the game, committing eight turnovers and shooting only 4-of-13 from the field, but scored 11 of the final 13 Syracuse points and came up with a pair of steals late, including one to thwart the Cards’ final possession.
Syracuse got off to a hot start, getting three buckets at the rim in the first two minutes to grab a 6-0 lead. After a Louisville three got them into the scoring column, five straight for the Orange gave them an eight-point lead, their biggest of the day. SU held the Cardinals at bay for a few minutes, but an 8-0 run gave the hosts the lead and, after an Orange free throw, they tacked on seven more in a row to take a 28-19 lead with under seven minutes left in the half. Syracuse, however, responded shortly after with a 10-1 run. That burst, in which Brandon Triche tallied the final eight points, took barely over two minutes and got the Orange within 32-31. The two squads traded scores the rest of the half until a late SU three sent the game to halftime at 38-38.
Louisville used an 8-0 run to grab a 48-40 lead early in the second half. The Orange were not deterred, clawing back within 49-46, then scoring six consecutive points to force a 52-52 tie at the midpoint of the session. SU rode their defense in that time frame, forcing the Cardinals to miss nine of ten shots in climbing out of that eight-point hole. Louisville eventually broke the tie and got out to a 62-57 lead, but Syracuse ran off nine unanswered points to regain the lead with just under five minutes remaining. The Cards showed their resilience, scoring the next six points for a 68-66 lead with just under two minutes on the clock.
Michael Carter-Williams took over in the final minute for the Orange, making a free throw to cut the margin to one, then picking off a Louisville pass and turning it into a fast break dunk for a 69-68 SU lead. Jerami Grant blocked a Cardinal shot on their next possession and Carter-Williams came up with the rebound. After getting fouled, the sophomore guard tacked on a free throw to make it 70-68. Carter-Williams put the Cardinals on ice by ripping the ball away from Louisville center Gorgui Dieng on their final possession for another steal and passing out to C.J. Fair, who was able to run out the clock.
Brandon Triche made 5-of-7 three pointers, including all four of his tries in the first half, as part of his team-high 23 points. Michael Carter-Williams scored 16 points and collected four steals to help the Orange cause. C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant each chipped in with ten points with Grant playing 35 minutes, including the entire second half, as the primary beneficiary of Southerland’s absence.
SU is faced with a quick turnaround, as they will host Cincinnati at the Carrier Dome on Monday. The Bearcats (16-3, 4-2) have won their last three contests, including a 71-69 overtime win over Marquette on Saturday night. The game has a special tip-off time of 3:30pm for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and will be televised by ESPN.Jim Stechschulte