Louisville 58, Syracuse 53

The SportsXchange

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The No. 1-ranked team in the country has lost seven times this season, but only once at home, with then-No. 1 Louisville against Syracuse on Feb. 19 at the KFC Yum! Center.

The No. 10 Cardinals gained a measure of revenge for that loss on Saturday when they defeated the No. 12 Orange, 58-53, in a Big East Conference game before 31,173 fans at the Carrier Dome.

It was the second largest on-campus crowd of the season after the 35,012 that attended last Saturday's game between Syracuse and Georgetown at the Dome.

With the score tied, 48-48, Luke Hancock of Louisville sank a long 3-pointer from the wing to snap the tie and Russ Smith added two free throws to make it 53-48.

Hancock sank four 3-pointers in the game, including three in the second half.

Smith led the Cardinals with 18 points, while C.J. Fair topped the Orange with 19. Fair's 3-pointer cut Louisville's lead to 56-53 with 4.6 seconds remaining, but Smith sank two free throws to ice the victory.

The Cardinals improved to 24-5 overall and 12-4 in the Big East, while the Orange dropped to 22-7 and 10-6.

The Cardinals are in second place in the Big East behind Georgetown (12-3), which hosts Rutgers on Saturday night.

The top four teams in the conference will earn byes into the Big East Tournament, and Syracuse is battling four teams for the two available byes after Georgetown and Louisville.

The Cardinals have won eight of their last nine games, with the only loss being the epic five-overtime setback to Notre Dame on Feb. 9. The victory also snapped Louisville's three-game losing streak against the Orange.

Syracuse, which had its 38-game homecourt winning streak ended against Georgetown last Saturday, has lost two consecutive home games for the first time since Jan. 22 and 25, 2011, against Villanova and Seton Hall.

The Orange has lost three consecutive games overall and hasn't lost four in a row since January 2010.

Trailing, 28-23, Syracuse used back-to-back dunks by Rakeem Christmas and James Southerland and Southerland's 3-pointer to take its first lead since early in the first half, 30-28.

Southerland's second and third 3-pointers of the half erased one-point deficits and gave the Orange 35-33 and 38-36 leads.

Hancock's 3-pointer enabled the Cardinals to regain the lead, 41-38. A few minutes later, Hancock drained another 3-pointer that boosted Louisville's lead to 47-40.

But Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams scored six consecutive points on four free throws and a layup as the Orange pulled within 47-46.

Fair's baseline jumper moved Syracuse ahead, 48-47, and the Cardinals made only one of four free throws to tie the score, 48-48.

The Cardinals led, 23-19, at halftime. Trailing, 7-3, Louisville went on a 9-0 run to take a 12-7 lead and the Cardinals didn't trail again in the half. Gorgui Dieng, who had seven first-half points, scored four in that 9-0 spurt.

Twice in the first half the Orange sliced its deficit to one. But Smith's three-point play and Chane Behanan's basket boosted Louisville's lead to 23-17 late in the half. Smith paced the Cardinals with nine first-half points.

Fair led the Orange with 10 points in the first half as he reached double figures for the 19th consecutive game. Syracuse shot only 27 percent in the first half (9-for-33, including 1-for-8 from 3-point range).

NOTES: The series now stands at 14-7 in favor of the Cardinals. ... Louisville's Peyton Siva recorded one steal Saturday and has 222 in his career. He needs seven more to break Darrell Griffith's school record. ... With his 136th career start Saturday, Syracuse's Brandon Triche moved past Gerry McNamara and into third place on the Orange's all-time list. ... The monster dunk by Chane Behanan of Louisville over DePaul's Worrel Clahar on Wednesday ranked No. 5 on ESPN's top plays for February. ... When Syracuse defeated the Cardinals at the KFC Yum! Center on Feb. 16, it was the first time a No. 1-ranked team had lost at home since Connecticut lost to Pittsburgh on Feb. 16, 2009. ... Saturday's coaches have combined for 1,542 victories, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim at 912, Louisville's Rick Pitino at 630). Pitino was an assistant on Boeheim's first coaching staff in 1976-77.
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