SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - When Louisville coach Rick Pitino threw off his coat, it was game-on.
Miffed by two straight fouls against Luke Hancock when the 10th-ranked Cardinals trailed No. 12 Syracuse by a point with time running out, Pitino stomped on the sidelines as he altered his courtside wardrobe and his team responded with a late spurt for a 58-53 victory Saturday, silencing another huge Carrier Dome crowd.
``We had a couple of real tough calls go against us and veteran teams don't let it bother you,' Pitino said. ``They dig in. It bothered me, but it didn't bother the players.'
Cool under fire despite the two quick fouls, Hancock hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to break a 48-all tie with 50 seconds left as the Cardinals exacted a measure of revenge for a loss to the Orange earlier this season.
``It's big,' said Hancock, who hit 4 of 5 from behind the arc for all of his points in the game. ``This was like a tournament game. It was that kind of atmosphere. This prepares us well. It definitely gives us confidence going into the end of the season. We want to win out the rest of our games and this was another step.'
It was the third straight loss for Syracuse (22-7, 10-6 Big East), which was humbled 57-46 in a loss to No. 7 Georgetown a week ago before a record Carrier Dome crowd of 35,012. That snapped the Orange's 38-game home winning streak, and they were beaten again, 74-71, at No. 22 Marquette on Monday night to drop into a tie in the Big East with Notre Dame behind the league-leading Hoyas, Louisville and Marquette.
Louisville (24-5, 12-4) snapped a three-game losing streak against Syracuse, and the Cardinals did it before a stunned crowd of 31,173. The victory moved Louisville into a tie with Marquette (21-7, 12-4), which beat Notre Dame, one-half game behind the Hoyas (22-4, 12-3), who played later Saturday.
Russ Smith led Louisville with 18 points and Gorgui Dieng finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds as the Cardinals overcame a poor offensive performance by point guard Peyton Siva. Siva failed to score, missing eight 3-pointers, but had four assists and no turnovers.
C.J. Fair had 19 points to lead the Orange, James Southerland added 13 and point guard Michael Carter-Williams 11.
Syracuse, which trailed 23-19 at halftime, its fewest points in a first half this season, outrebounded Louisville 41-36 but was victimized by eight 3s and shot poorly again (20 of 56 for 35.7 percent). Senior guard Brandon Triche, one of the heroes in the win over Louisville in mid-January with 23 points, had just eight on this day, going 2 for 11 from the field and missing all three of his tries from long range. Syracuse's starting guards finished 5 of 21 overall and 1 of 7 on 3-pointers, while Triche had a game-high seven turnovers.
``We can't have him (Triche) play this way,' Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. ``He works his tail off. He's a good teammate. He wants to win, but I don't like the way he's playing right now. I don't like the way we're playing. We need to get something offensively.'
After Hancock swished a straight-on 3 for Louisville, Fair hit a spinning layup as Dieng fouled him but missed the free throw and Syracuse trailed 41-40 with 7:34 to go.
Louisville began to press and the strategy paid off with two straight turnovers. Southerland lost the ball off the dribble and Triche mishandled an inbounds pass. The Cardinals took advantage as Dieng sank two free throws and Hancock hit a 3 from the wing for a 47-40 lead at 5:35, the biggest edge by either team in the game.
Carter-Williams scored six straight points in a span of just over a minute to rally the Orange, hitting four free throws and a shot off the glass as Syracuse trailed 47-46 with 4:27 left. Fair's baseline jumper gave Syracuse the lead and Smith's free throw tied it at 48-all with 1:39 to go.
After Triche missed a baseline layup against Dieng, Hancock stole Triche's ensuing inbounds pass and Hancock drained his fourth 3 off a slick pass to the corner from Smith to break the tie. Smith then hit two free throws and Triche's turnover sealed the Orange's fate as the Cardinals hit 7 of 8 free throws in the final seconds.
``We had the lead. We just lost it at the end,' Southerland said. ``We just have to have the mentality that when we have the ball, we're not going to lose it. Unfortunately, we had some tough turnovers at the end of the game that definitely changed the outcome.
``We just have to forget about this game and move forward. This is stuff teams go through. The best thing about it is it's better to go through it now than in the tournament because you only have one chance then.'
Syracuse beat Louisville 70-68 in mid-January in the final seconds when Carter-Williams stole a pass at the top of the key and raced the length of the court, slamming home a two-hander that Dieng couldn't contest and landing hard on his back underneath the backboard. A record crowd of 22,814 at the KFC Yum! Center saw Syracuse beat a No. 1 team for fourth time, and the Cardinals are still the only top-ranked team to lose at home this season.
The Louisville players said they weren't thinking revenge. They're just happy to be playing at a high level after their fifth straight win.
``It wasn't a revenge game. We did what we were supposed to do,' Dieng said. ``Anyone can beat anybody in the Big East. We need to win all the games (left) and do what we're supposed to do, and the rest is going to take care of itself.'
Syracuse, which trailed 23-19 after a poor first half, briefly found a way to foil Dieng, Louisville's shot-blocking defensive ace, early in the second half. Carter-Williams fed Rakeem Christmas for a slam dunk and less than a minute later Southerland slammed another home to complete a three-way passing play in the lane with Christmas and Triche to move Syracuse within 28-27.
With Dieng on the bench, Southerland, who had just one basket in the first half, then drained a 3 from the top of the arc to give Syracuse just its second lead of the game. It was short-lived as Kevin Ware hit a 3 from the top of the key 24 seconds later.
``It's March,' Ware said. ``Tournament time is right around the corner. We told ourselves yesterday every game is like an NCAA game. We don't want to lose. We want to keep this win streak going.'
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved