Three up, and three down. The Syracuse Orange men's basketball team has now lost three straight, two while inside the walls of their own home, a place that once housed 38 consecutive victories.
Their most recent loss came against Louisville, who flew in their Cardinals for a rematch after falling short of the Orange at the KFC Yum! Center earlier this season.
The player who performed the best in Louisville's last contest with Syracuse got started early in this match, connecting from long range on the Cardinals' opening possession. Junior guard Russ Smith, who led Louisville with 25 in the previous match with Syracuse, put Louisville up 3-0. He finished this game with 18, leading the Cardinals once again.
Sophomore guard Michael Carter-Williams put the lead in Syracuse's favor for the first time with a jumper at 17:13 remaining in the opening half. The Orange would sustain that lead for a little over two and a half minutes.
But after losing the advantage at 14:40 on a jumper by junior center Gorgui Dieng, Syracuse would cease to gain the upper hand for the remainder of the first half, coming closest with a tie at 13-all with 8:44 to go, thanks to a made jumper by junior forward C.J. Fair.
Syracuse, however, would only make seven of their 27 attempted jumpers in the first half. Carter-Williams' three to tie the game within the first minute would be the only long range connection in the first 20 minutes for the Orange, with the team going 1-for-8.
They would go 9-for-33 overall, making a mere two of six at the rim.
Louisville did not shoot well to open the game either. They made the same amount of shots as Syracuse (9), but on less tries (29), making two more threes than Syracuse.
At the break, the Cardinals led another low-scoring half for the Orange, 23-19.
Syracuse would rise to take the lead back with 15:29 remaining in the game, after a span of more than 18 minutes without the advantage. But, senior forward James Southerland's three was answered on the next possession by Louisville off a deep jumper by Cardinals' sophomore guard Kevin Ware.
From Southerland's three at 15:29 to 53 seconds left in the contest, Syracuse and Louisville would trade the lead back-and-forth a total of 10 times. Within this time period, the Orange would turn the ball over nine times. The Cardinals would gain 11 points off of those turnovers; they accumulated as many points as Syracuse's total turnovers, 16 from 16.
With under a minute to go and a 51-48 advantage, the Cardinals would make seven of eight free throws to close out the match, and the door, on the Orange for good.
Despite making two more shots on 10 less attempts (11-for-23) than the first half and going 4-for-5 from long range, Syracuse was on the wrong side of a 58-53 score, resulting in their third-straight loss in the Big East as well as to a team ranked among the nation's top 25 at the time of play.
The backcourt for the Orange made a mere five of their 21 attempts between Carter-Williams and fellow guard, senior Brandon Triche. As a team, Syracuse made a total of 20 of their 56 tries, making seven of 17 jumpers and four of six attempts at the rim in the latter half.
Fair took the most attempts for Syracuse and made the most, going 9-for-20, to lead the team and all players overall with 19 points. Southerland would follow with 13 points, making three of his five three-point attempts, and Carter-Williams behind him with 11.
For Louisville, two players attained double-figures behind Smith, with junior guard/forward Luke Hancock ending with 12 and Dieng with 11.
The Cardinals' bench helped make the win possible for their team, outscoring the Orange bench 22-13. Southerland was responsible for all 13 of Syracuse's points off the bench. In 21 combined minutes, junior center Baye Keita, redshirt-freshman Trevor Cooney, and freshman center DaJuan Coleman went 0-for-2 from the field as a group.
Both teams came in with an opportunity to still claim the top spot in the Big East. Syracuse went out with little to no opportunity, while Louisville is very much alive in the conversation.
The Orange fall to 10-6 in the Big East and 22-7 overall, while the Cardinals rise to 12-4 in the conference and 24-5 in total.
Syracuse's next and final home opponent will be the DePaul Blue Demons on Wednesday, March 6th, at 6pm ET.
Louisville heads back to their nest to face the Cincinnati Bearcats on Monday, March 4th, at 7pm ET.