Tuesday night, Syracuse managed to pull out one of their ugliest wins in recent history, eking out a 70-69 win at Louisville. The Orange (10-5, 3-1 ACC) and Cardinals (2-13, 0-4) combined to commit 36 turnovers overall (24 in the first half), including two in the final five seconds as the former looked like they would hold on for the victory, only to give the latter an opportunity to win, which they, in turn, gave up.
SU’s Judah Mintz was dribbling out the clock when he slipped and turned the ball over, which was recovered by Louisville’s El Ellis. Ellis then advanced the ball into the frontcourt and had the ball tipped away by Syracuse center Jesse Edwards. The ball went to Benny Williams, who passed the ball out to Joe Girard III as the clock expired, saving the win for the Orange.
While Girard was a footnote in the final seconds, he played a very big role in SU getting that far by hitting four three-pointers and 10-of-11 from the foul line as he poured in 28 points while grabbing seven rebounds. Mintz helped out his backcourt mate with 16 points while Edwards had his seventh double-double of the season, finishing with 12 points and 11 rebounds to go with four blocks.
El Ellis and Mike James each drilled four triples for the Cards as they finished with 20 and 19 points, respectively. Ellis also dished out nine assists and had three steals. Jae’Lyn Withers also reached double digits, adding ten points to the Louisville side of the ledger.
Syracuse jumped out to a fairly quick start, getting treys from Girard and Chris Bell in the opening minutes as they built an 8-2 lead out of the gate. The Cardinals grabbed control of the game a few minutes later, rattling off 13 unanswered points for a 19-10 lead and forcing an Orange timeout with 12:29 left in the opening half.
The break in the action worked, as SU got the next 12 points of the game out of Girard (eight) and Mintz (four). Syracuse would extend the run to 17-2 for a 27-21 lead with a little over six minutes left in the half, but the hosts scored eight of the last ten points to grab a 35-34 lead at intermission.
Louisville also notched the first half dozen markers out of the break to push their run to 14-2 and their lead to seven, but Bell bookended a 9-2 burst for the Orange with a jumper and a triple that knotted the score at 43. The Cards responded with the better of play for the next nine minutes, gradually building a 57-51 lead.
SU came back once more, this time with a 10-3 run to nose out front, 61-60, with under four minutes to go. From that point on, there were six lead changes as the teams swapped the lead with arguably the best basketball of the night. Girard led the way in the closing moments, nailing a three-pointer and two sets of foul shots in the last three minutes, the latter pair coming after he rebounded a Louisville miss and pushing the Syracuse lead to 70-67.
With that three-point lead in hand, Jim Boeheim had his charges foul to help eat up clock and not allow a game-tying three-pointer. After the third foul, Ellis made two foul shots, setting the stage
for the chaotic final seconds.