Well, the first ten minutes were great.
After that, #18 Louisville simply flattened Syracuse, outscoring them by 26 points before the final horn for a 72-58 home victory. The Orange (18-9, 8-6 ACC) saw their five-game win streak go by the wayside, while the Cardinals moved to 20-6 on the season, including a 9-4 conference mark.
SU made only 38 percent of their field goal attempts, while Louisville cashed in on 47.8 percent of their shots, even though they started 1-for-10 from the floor. Syracuse also forced seven turnovers in their strong start, but could only force four miscues during the final 30 minutes of action.
Both teams were spotty on offense in the opening moments, but the Orange eventually cashed in on a Tyler Roberson lay-up for the first points of the night. A couple trips later, Michael Gbinije found Malachi Richardson with a crosscourt pass for a left wing three to push the SU advantage to 5-0.
Following a Louisville basket, Richardson added a free throw, then Frank Howard made a steal and led Gbinije for a fast break slam and an 8-2 lead. Gbinije added a pair of foul shots to push the Syracuse lead to eight, but a Cardinal basket clipped it to a half dozen.
Richardson dropped in one more free throw, then, after an ally-oop pass to him was broken up, Roberson followed with a lay-up for a nine-point advantage. Following another score by the hosts, Gbinije followed a Cooney miss in transition. Cooney atoned for that miss by curling in a three from the left wing just past the midpoint of the opening half for an 18-6 Orange lead.
That is when things turned against SU.
With Gbinije sent to the bench with his second foul shortly after taking a 12-point lead, the Orange offense went into the deep freeze as Louisville posted an 8-0 run. Cooney broke the cold streak with another three, but the Cards added a jumper and another three to get within 21-19.
After an Orange foul shot, the hosts scored on consecutive possessions to take their first lead of the night at 23-22 with under three minutes left in the half.
Tyler Lydon righted the SU ship with two foul shots, then Cooney splashed a right wing three for a 27-23 Syracuse lead. Louisville, however, answered with the last five points of the half, including a three right before the buzzer for a 28-27 lead at intermission.
The two squads alternated scores in the opening minutes of the second half, capped by a three-pointer from the left wing by Gbinije that tied the game at 32 a side with just over two minutes elapsed in the second half.
The Cardinals responded to that by scoring a dozen of the game’s next 15 points for a 44-35 lead less than six minutes into the half.
Syracuse fought back to within six points when Howard found Lydon for a reverse lay-up, but the hosts ripped off an 8-1 run to seize a 56-41 lead and force an SU timeout just before the midpoint of the second half.
The Orange were mostly helpless after that, only getting within a dozen points twice after that. Louisville mostly used the final five minutes to put together a team-wide YouTube highlight reel, throwing down multiple highlight dunks (and missing a couple) as the Orange were forced to try to force steals in a comeback effort.
Trevor Cooney topped all players with 19 points, hitting five three-pointers for most of his damage. Michael Gbinije added 13 points for the Orange and Malachi Richardson added ten, although he shot two-of-nine from the field to get there.
Damion Lee paced Louisville with 15 points, while Trey Lewis added 14. The biggest force for the Cardinals was Chinanu Onuaku, younger brother of former SU player Arinze Onuaku, who had 13 points and 15 rebounds on the night.
The Orange return to the friendly atmosphere of the Carrier Dome on Saturday to wrap up their home-and-home series with Pittsburgh. The Panthers (18-7, 7-6) ended a three-game slide on Tuesday night with a 101-96 double overtime victory over Wake Forest at home. Pitt held serve at home, defeating Syracuse in the ACC opener for the two teams, 72-61.
Jamel Artis, the second-leading scorer on the season for the Panthers, nearly had a triple-double in the first matchup, finishing with 18 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists. Pitt’s top scorer, Michael Young, added 15 points. Trevor Cooney and Tyler Roberson each had 15 points for SU in the game, while Michael Gbinije added 14.
Saturday’s matinee gets underway at 2:00pm Eastern with ESPN2 handling the television duties. The telecast will also be available online at espn3.com and through the ESPN app.