Monday night, #12 Syracuse held a pair of significant leads at #22 Marquette, but squandered both as they dropped their second straight game, 74-71. The Orange (22-6, 10-5 Big East) gave back a double-digit first half lead, then could not hang onto a seven-point lead they had on three separate occasions in the second half. In spite of holding the Golden Eagles (20-7, 11-4) to stretches of 7:40 and 6:00 without a field goal, SU could not hold them off all night. Syracuse was bullied inside and forced to foul to try to slow down Marquette’s big men, but ended up giving up 29 points at the foul line.
e Orange opened the game hot, scoring on three of their first four possessions en route to a 7-1 lead just over two minutes into the action. Marquette promptly responded with seven points of their own for their first lead. After the Golden Eagles took a 14-12 lead, the SU defense shut down the hosts, forcing them to miss their next nine shots. Meanwhile, the Syracuse offense clicked, ringing up 13 unanswered points to take a 25-14 lead with just over four minutes on the clock. After each team tallied a basket, Marquette went on a run of their own, scoring 11 of the game’s next 13 points to climb back within 29-27 with just over a minute left in the opening half. The Orange were able to stop the bleeding with a three-point play and held a 32-29 lead at halftime.
Marquette finished wiping out that 11-point deficit early in the second half and took a 35-34 lead less then two minutes after the break. Shortly after that, Syracuse ran off eight straight points in 70 seconds, capped by a pair of James Southerland triples, to take a 44-37 lead. The hosts immediately struck back to get within a deuce, but the Orange held them off, eventually stretching the margin out to seven points twice more, the latter at 53-46 with just over nine minutes remaining. The Golden Eagles took over from there, ripping off a 15-2 run to take a 61-55 lead with under four minutes to play. The hosts would stretch the margin to eight points with 90 seconds to play and SU turned to shooting three-pointers and fouling to try to pull out the victory. The Orange got four three-pointers and a lay-up in the night’s final 70 seconds, but it was not enough, as Marquette drove home 9-of-12 free throws to hold on for the win.
C.J. Fair scored in double digits for the 18th consecutive outing, finishing with a team-high 20 points. As he so often does, Fair turned in a very efficient shooting night, this time connecting on 8-of-11 field goal tries. James Southerland rang up 15 points, including a dozen in the second half on four three-pointers. Michael Carter-Williams chipped in with 14 points and Baye Moussa Keita contributed a strong effort off the bench, finishing with seven points and eight rebounds.
Syracuse looks to right their ship on Saturday when they welcome #10 Louisville to the Carrier Dome. The Cardinals (22-5, 10-4), have won six out of seven games and face DePaul prior to their visit to SU. The Orange edged then-#1 Louisville in the opener of the season series on January 19, pulling out a 70-68 win. CBS will televise the game, which will start at noon.Jim Stechschulte (Follow on Twitter @dsafetyguy)