It was easy to dismiss Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim when he claimed his 24-1 team wasn't playing especially well after Wednesday's narrow victory over previously struggling Connecticut.
Now? Hmmmmmmm, maybe Boeheim's comments were more than just a transparent attempt to fire up his own team.
A second straight flat performance from Syracuse resulted in a 66-60 loss to Louisville that may end up being a good outcome for both teams.
For the Orange, it's a much needed wake-up call that relegates them to second place in the Big East yet doesn't really hurt their chances at earning a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday. For the Cardinals, it's a crucial marquee road victory that atones for Thursday's humiliating loss to St. John's and boosts their suddenly tenuous NCAA tournament hopes.
The most important sequence of the game conveniently illustrated Louisville's all-out desperation and Syracuse's lack of attention to detail. Instead of boxing out to get the rebound of a missed free throw by Louisville's Jared Swopshire with 1:41 to go and the Cardinals up three, the Orange allowed freshman Mike Marra to swoop in for an offensive board and then drain a 3-pointer to extend the lead to six a few seconds later.
An enormous orange-clad crowd of more than 30,000 filled the Carrier Dome on Sunday, but even they seemed to be looking ahead to the Villanova showdown later this month. It didn't get remotely loud until a Samuardo Samuels dunk capped a 13-2 Louisville run to put the Cardinals up 59-52 with under four minutes to go.
Syracuse still had a chance to tie the game in the final 30 seconds, but Wesley Johnson's baseline drive ended with a reverse layup richocheting off the underside of the backboard. Then referees whistled Kris Joseph for an intentional foul for pulling Louisville's Jerry Smith to the ground by the shoulder, a call that drew the ire of Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse faithful.
But for all the officiating woes the Big East has experienced of late, this isn't a loss the Orange can blame on the refs. Syracuse played like it needed a wakeup call, and desperate Louisville obliged with a season-saving upset.