LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim preferred to
look on the bright side despite all his team's problems.
Only C.J. Fair had an answer against Louisville, which was
poised for an upset.
"Our defense was getting crucial stops when we needed them,"
Fair said. "And, defense wins games."
Fair scored 13 points and No. 2 Syracuse scored the final six
points of the game to beat the Cardinals 52-51 on
Monday night, snapping a seven-game losing streak against
Louisville (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 19 AP) in a game that reminded Boeheim of the NCAA tournament.
"You're going to get in games like this in the tournament. I
don't care who you are. You've got to be ready to be able to make
those plays at the end of games," Boeheim said. "If they make a
play, hit one shot, the end, we lose. In the tournament, you go
home and you're going to play teams like Louisville and teams just
as good or better."
Syracuse (26-1, 13-1) is on a roll toward a Big East title and
hopes to play for a national championship in April. The Orange
proved in this one they could grind out a possession-by-possession
"You can either give the defenses credit or say it was a bad
offensive game," Boeheim said. "We're going to look on the bright
side and say it was a real defensive struggle tonight."
Louisville (20-6, 8-5) rallied with a 15-2 run to take a 51-46
lead, but the Orange held the Cardinals without a point over the
final 3˝ minutes and Fair hit the go-ahead layup with 2:11 left.
"It was a defensive battle and they came up with the plays at
the end," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "I'm very, very
disappointed that we lost the game."
Fab Melo scored 11 points and the best shooting team in the Big
East overcame a 34.4 percent effort, including 1 of 15 from 3-point
range, to win for the sixth straight time since losing at Notre
Jardine missed all eight of his shots and Joseph, Syracuse's
leading scorer, struggled with foul trouble, while Cardinals
forward Kyle Kuric went 1 for 8 from the field, including 1 for 6
from 3-point range.
"I don't put my head down because I know I'm reliable to make a
tough basket at any given time," Jardine said. "And that's the
same as the other two guards and that's what happened tonight."
The Orange came in shooting 48.1 this season, while the
Cardinals' defensive field goal percentage was fourth-best in the
nation at 37.2. Neither team could reach that mark against the
other's zone looks.
Freshman Chane Behanan had 16 points and nine rebounds for the
Cardinals, who had won six straight conference games.
It was a whiteout at the KFC Yum! Center with 22,738 fans
wearing white and Pitino donning his cream-colored suit with a red
tie, but it was far from a shootout with both sides struggling from
Triche hit a jumper -- Syracuse's first field goal outside the
paint in the second half and only second of the game -- Melo hit two
free throws and Fair added a layup to give Syracuse a 52-51 lead
with 2:11 left.
"A game like this, going down to the last shot, it's a game
that we're definitely going to use," Triche said.
Louisville guard Chris Smith finished with 10 points, while
Gorgui Dieng had 10 rebounds and five turnovers, including a costly
one late for the Cardinals, who shot 34.7 percent from the field
and went 12 of 21 from the free-throw line.
Dieng committed a turnover instead of trying a 15-foot jumper,
throwing it away and Smith missed a reverse layup with 57 seconds
"Plays like Gorgui not shooting that shot, that bothers me
because we work on that every single day for 45 minutes. I don't
care if our guys miss shots," Pitino said. "When they're open,
they've got to shoot the ball. That kind of thing irks the hell out
Waiters missed a layup with 30 seconds left, giving Louisville a
chance at the last shot, but Dieng couldn't handle a pass from
Peyton Siva in the paint and Waiters stole it after it bounced off
"I just made the wrong decision," Siva said. "I didn't see
Kyle open in the corner. I won't make that mistake again."
Waiters missed a free throw after being fouled and Louisville
had 1.1 seconds left and the length of the court to go, but
freshman Angel Nunez couldn't handle a pass from Behanan as time
Louisville trailed 44-36 with 7:31 to play before Behanan
sparked a 15-2 run.
On one sequence, he grabbed an offensive rebound for an easy
dunk off Kuric's missed 3-point attempt, stole a pass into the low
post from Fair and fed Dieng for an assist on a three-point play
that made it 46-all with 4:57 left.
Joseph, who picked up his fourth foul early in the second half,
re-entered the game and missed a 3-point attempt. Smith hit one
beyond the arc in the right corner for Louisville, and Behanan's
putback of another miss by Smith that gave Louisville a 51-46 lead
Those would be Louisville's final points.
"We know we can only beat ourselves," Jardine said. "We've
got to continue to play Syracuse basketball and try and gut out