The Syracuse Orange, led by Brandon Triche’s hot first-half shooting and the late-game heroics of Michael Carter-Williams, stunned the No. 1 Louisville Cardinals on Saturday before a KFC Yum! Center-record crowd of 22,814.
The last time these two teams met with the No. 1 ranking at stake was three seasons ago when the Orange were tops in the land. Heavy was the head that wore the crown that day as the Cardinals rode the hot shooting of Kyle Kuric (22 points on 9-of-11 field goals) to a 78-68 victory in what was the last game at Freedom Hall.
The first half was a tale of two games as Syracuse jumped out to a 14-7 lead until Louisville ratcheted up their defensive pressure.
The Cardinals used a 21-5 run over the next eight minutes to build a 28-19 lead.
Carter-Williams, Syracuse’s lanky sophomore point guard, bore the brunt of most of that pressure as he committed six turnovers in the first half alone. With the crowd roaring behind them, Rick Pitino’s bunch stood on the precipice of blowing the game open if not for Triche.
The senior guard kept his team in the game with 18 first-half points, including all four of his three-point attempts, on a perfect 7-of-7 from the field. Triche scored 10 straight for the Orange at one point.
Despite the rash of turnovers, Carter-Williams drained a three to tie the game at 38 and send the Orange into the locker room with momentum.
Louisville opened the second half with a 10-2 run to re-establish a lead they would hold until freshman Jerami Grant tied the game at 52 with 9:51 remaining.
Grant, who scored 10 points on the day and hauled down five boards, has given the Orange a much-needed lift over the past two games helping to pick up the slack for senior James Southerland, Syracuse’s best long-range shooter, who was declared ineligible.
The contest remained tight the rest of the way and the outcome still hung in the balance with less than a minute remaining. That’s when Carter-Williams went to work.
With 39 seconds left, Louisville had the ball and was nursing a 68-67 lead. Carter-Williams jumped the passing lane, stole a pass from Peyton Siva, and then outran two Cardinals the length of the court, finishing with an emphatic two-handed dunk to give Syracuse a one-point lead.
On Louisville’s next possession, Carter-Williams sank one of two free throws after being fouled when he scooped up a loose ball.
Louisville had one final chance to tie or win the game but couldn’t get a shot off.
The win, coupled with Marquette’s road loss to Cincinnati, allows Syracuse to sit alone atop the Big East standings at 5-0. The Orange won’t have much time to relish knocking off the No. 1-ranked team in the land, as the Cincinnati Bearcats pay a visit to the Carrier Dome on Monday.