SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - Louisville was executing coach Rick
Pitino's game plan to perfection against second-ranked Syracuse.
The Cardinals took a six-point lead over the Orange midway
through the first half with hopes of ruining Senior Day in the
Carrier Dome. But after Orange center Fab Melo was called for
goaltending on Chane Behanan's hook in the lane to give the No. 19
Cardinals a 15-9 lead, they didn't get their next basket until Russ
Smith's breakaway layup with 1:33 left.
A 12-0 run had Syracuse in control, and the Orange cruised to a
58-49 victory on Saturday over their nemesis, leading by as many 19
before it was over.
"I thought the first seven minutes we played as well
offensively and defensively that you can play against their zone,"
Pitino said. "But then - and it's been our Achilles' heel - we
keep missing open shots."
Lots of open shots. The Cardinals finished 2 of 23 (8.7 percent)
from behind the arc - after Wayne Blackshear opened the game with a
3 from the left corner. Kyle Kuric was 1 of 7, and Russ Smith and
Chris Smith combined to go 0 for 11 from long range.
Brandon Triche scored 18 points, Dion Waiters had 13, and Kris
Joseph 11 as Syracuse finished the season unbeaten at home.
Syracuse (30-1, 17-1 Big East) capped only its second unbeaten
season in the Carrier Dome since it opened in 1980, going 19-0. The
only other team to go undefeated in the dome was the national
championship squad of 2002-03 led by Carmelo Anthony, which
"They've done everything you could ask them to," Orange coach
Jim Boeheim said. "It's a very unselfish team. They look for each
other. They've had just a tremendous season."
The Orange also matched the conference record for victories set
in 1995-96 by Connecticut and finished the regular season with 30
wins for the first time in Boeheim's 36-year tenure.
"There are a lot of games they should've lost, but they didn't
because they have veterans," Pitino said. "The thing that I like
so much about this (Syracuse) team is they make shots. We should
have beaten them at our place. They're a very good team. We'll see
if they're a great team come tournament time."
Despite the setback, Pitino was optimistic as the Cardinals
(22-9, 10-8) prepare to head to New York City for the Big East
"We're very excited," he said. "I think we'll be a different
basketball team then as we go in there, and we'll play a lot
faster. We'll play faster against everybody and I think that will
help us immensely. When you play slow and everything's a jump shot,
Syracuse, which has a double-bye heading into Madison Square
Garden, held the Cardinals to a season low in points.
"They played great defense and we stopped being aggressive,"
said Louisville point guard Peyton Siva, who took only two shots
and had four points to go with six turnovers. "They did a great
job playing the lanes today and they made great adjustments.
They're not ranked No. 2 for nothing."
Chane Behanan and Smith led Louisville with 10 points apiece,
while Gorgui Dieng finished with six on 3-of-13 shooting.
It was the Orange's second straight victory over Louisville
after they snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Cardinals
with a 52-51 victory at the KFC Yum! Center on Feb. 13, scoring the
game's final six points. That game was a defensive struggle as both
teams shot just under 35 percent, with the Orange going 1 of 15
from long range.
This one was more of the same at the outset before Syracuse came
Waiters scored six points to key that 12-point run, his spinning
layup through the lane eliciting a huge roar from the crowd. Fab
Melo's block on Dieng then sent Triche in for a fast-break layup
and two free throws by James Southerland gave Syracuse a 26-16 lead
with 4:00 left in the first half.
Louisville lost at home to South Florida, 58-51 on Wednesday
night, managing a season-low 17 points in the first half, and the
Cardinals trailed 26-19 at the break in this one.
Triche, who hadn't reached double figures in the past seven
games, scored the first eight points of the second half to boost
the lead to 15. He hit a 3 from the right side to open the period
and followed his own miss on a lob, forcing the Cardinals to call a
timeout as the game kept slipping away. Triche then swished another
3, this one from the left corner after a pretty passing play with
Melo, Joseph and Scoop Jardine.
Consecutive baskets by Russ Smith stopped the surge, but only
briefly. Two layups by C.J. Fair, Joseph's 3, and a steal and layup
by Waiters boosted the lead to 45-27 with 13:00 left.
The Cardinals had a late charge in them, though. Kuric converted
a layup and a 3 from the left corner, his first baskets of the
game, and Siva's layup moved Louisville within 50-40 as Syracuse
went nearly 6 minutes without a point.
Four free throws by Triche and a 3 by Waiters in the final 3
minutes sent the hometown crowd into one last frenzy and put a
stamp on a remarkable season.
"It's awesome to get 30 wins in a season," Triche said. "Any
time you can get a "W" it don't matter who it's against. We ended
the season playing pretty well. That's all you want to do.
"It's pretty impressive when you look at it five years from
now," he added. "Right now, if we don't do well (in the
postseason), 30 wins is going to mean nothing."
Joseph, Jardine, who failed to score for the second time this
season against Louisville, and reserves Brandon Reese, Nick Resavy
and Matt Tomaszewski were honored in a pregame ceremony on Senior