Ten days ago, Syracuse was in a tie for first place in their final go-around in the Big East. Saturday afternoon, the 12th-ranked Orange (22-7, 10-6 Big East) dropped their third straight conference matchup to plummet into a three-way tie for fourth place in the standings, falling to #10 Louisville at the Carrier Dome, 58-53. SU made a late run to take a lead in the waning minutes of the game, but the Cardinals (24-5, 12-4) responded by delivering the knockout punch in the final two minutes.
Louisville drew blood first, connecting on a three-pointer, but Syracuse scored the next seven points for an early four-point lead. The Cardinals scored the next nine points of the game, which turned into a defensive struggle, to grab a 12-7 lead. Most of that stretch can be explained by the offensive shortcomings of the Orange, as they missed five field goals and a pair of charity shots in a span of nearly four minutes.
SU straightened out their marksmanship and forced a tie at 13 a side. Louisville regained the lead and eventually stretched it out to 23-17 with just under four minutes left in the half. Syracuse mustered the only remaining score before the break, getting a lay-up to go into the break down by four.
The Orange found their offensive rhythm in the opening minutes of the second half, following an empty possession to start the session with five successful ones, capped by a three-pointer to grab a 30-28 lead with 4:30 off the clock. The two squads alternated scores until a Louisville basket and free throw put them up 36-35. SU added on a three-pointer to go up by a basket, but the visitors turned up the jets, posting an 11-2 run for a 47-40 Cardinal lead.
Michael Carter-Williams led the charge for Syracuse, scoring six straight points to jumpstart an 8-0 run for the Orange, who then led, 48-47, with 2:52 to go. A Louisville free throw was the only scoring until the visitors buried a three-pointer to take a 51-48 lead with 53 seconds left. SU replied with a hurried three-pointer that missed badly and was forced to foul. The Cardinals made a trio of free throws in their next two possessions for a six-point margin. A late trey pushed Syracuse within 56-53, but that was their last score while Louisville added a pair of free throws to close out the scoring.
C.J. Fair continued his strong play, topping the Orange offense with 19 points. James Southerland piled up 11 of his 13 points after the break while Michael Carter-Williams chipped in with 11 points.
The Orange look to pull the rip cord on their freefall on Wednesday when DePaul visits the Carrier Dome for senior night. James Southerland and Brandon Triche will both play in their final game in the Carrier Dome against the Blue Demons (11-17, 2-13), who play at South Florida on Sunday prior to their trip to upstate New York and have also dropped 12 of their last 13 games. The game starts at 6 pm on Wednesday and will be available on television on SNY.