If you had the Orange winning a shootout, you might have been alone. Syracuse (16-8, 5-6) shot an uncharacteristically high 47% from the field and 46% from three, which propelled them to a 78-73 victory over Louisville (16-8, 6-5).
Syracuse, coming off two straight losses, needed a big road win in the Bluegrass state. In those two losses, the Orange combined to score only 95 points, including a season-low 44 against No. 2 Virginia on Saturday.
Syracuse almost matched that total in the first half.
The Orange put up 39 points in the first 20 minutes behind Frank Howard and Tyus Battle. After shooting 4-17 in each of his last two games, Howard went 4-7 with 13 points in the opening frame. Battle added 11 after being a perfect 5-5 from the charity stripe.
Defensively, the Orange forced Louisville to commit nine turnovers. The 'Cuse capitalized and held a 16-3 advantage in points off of turnovers. In a rough half for the Cards, Darius Perry was able to make a long buzzer-beater near half-court to cut Syracuse's lead to six at 39-33.
Oshae Brissett ended whatever momentum Louisville thought they had in the opening minutes. The freshman forward started the half with two big threes. But, he would have to step off the court only a minute after. Brissett picked up his fourth foul with a whopping 16:56 to go in the game.
The Orange had built their lead to 12 before the Cardinals came roaring back. Louisville went on a 10-1 run to slash the Syracuse lead to a mere two points at 67-65 with 4:05 to play. The 'Cuse were able to stop the bleeding and keep L'Ville out of striking distance.
With just 1:26 to go, Brissett fouled out on a blocking foul. Matthew Moyer, with three fouls himself, had to come back in the game. Cardinals guard Ryan McMahon hit a big triple, making it 76-73 with 2.6 seconds to go. But it was too little too late. The Orange held on for an important 78-73 road win.
For Syracuse, this was a big win considering the lack of depth. SU had five players with three or more fouls, including Brissett fouling out and two others with four. In a game where Syracuse needed their bench more than ever, they still ended up being outscored by a wide margin of 34-2 in bench points.
What lead the Orange to the promised land was the play of Frank Howard and Tyus Battle. Howard had shot a disappointing 10-44 in his previous three games. Tonight, he broke out of the slump, going 7-15 from the field, 3-5 from behind the arc and dropping 22 points. #25 went for 25, as Battle was a perfect 11 for 11 from the free-throw line. The guards took the lead for the 'Cuse tonight.
The Orange have almost an entire week off before they play host to Wake Forest on Sunday. Back on Jan. 3, Syracuse lost 73-67 to the Demon Deacons in Winston-Salem. See if the Orange can even the season series beginning with Countdown to Tip-off at 12:30, followed by tip-off at 1, right here on WAER.