Courtesy of The Courier-JournalMen's Basketball
WINGS CLIPPED: No. 6 Syracuse beats No. 1 Louisville 70-68 on road behind Carter-Williams’ clutch 2nd-half play
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Syracuse needed someone to make a play. Precious seconds ticked away with the Orange trailing Louisville by one.
Each second gone was another moment closer to defeat. Then Syracuse got the play it so desperately needed with 24 seconds left.
Michael Carter-Williams played the hero, atoning for a brutal turnover-filled first-half performance, coming away with a steal and racing down the court for an emphatic two-handed slam over Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng.
“He’s a big-time player and he’s got a lot of heart,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “He’ll make plays and I knew when he got the steal, I knew he had to dunk it on Dieng and he did.”
Carter-Williams’ clutch play in the game’s final moments was the defining play in No. 6 Syracuse’s 70-68 win over No. 1 Louisville on Saturday. It left the 22,814 once-raucous KFC Yum! Center fans in stunned silence, sealing a comeback victory for the Orange (17-1, 5-0 Big East), which trailed for the first 14-plus minutes of the second half. Carter-Williams’ play coupled with SU’s stingy defensive performance in the second half – limiting the Cardinals (16-2, 4-1) to 29-percent shooting – was the difference in a thrilling battle between the Big East’s elite.
“They made some really terrific defensive plays down the stretch and that was the game,” Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said. “Give them credit, they made the plays; they made the shots when it counted and we didn’t.”
The tough loss was even tougher to swallow for Pitino, who watched the Cardinals come up short despite controlling the game for the majority of the first and second halves.
Syracuse came out strong, taking a 14-7 lead early behind eight quick points from senior guard Brandon Triche. The Orange held the advantage for the opening nine-plus minutes until Louisville ratcheted up the pressure.
The Cardinals’ backcourt trio of Peyton Siva, Russ Smith and Kevin Ware hounded Carter-Williams throughout the half, greeting him with every inbounds pass and hassling him the length of the court. The pressure frustrated Carter-Williams, the nation’s leader in assists, into six first-half turnovers and threw a wrench into SU’s half-court offense.
With Carter-Williams neutralized against the unrelenting defense, the Orange couldn’t find a rhythm and the Cardinals held a lead of nine twice.
“They forced me to turn the ball over obviously and I just knew that I was better than that, better than I was playing in terms of turning the ball over,” Carter-Williams said. “It was tough but I didn’t lose faith in myself and I kept attacking.”
Carter-Williams found some confidence at the end of the half, hitting a 3-pointer for his only field goal to that point to send his team into the break tied 38-38. Triche – who kept SU in it with 18 points in the first 20 minutes on 7-of-7 shooting – ran down the court with a display of emotion toward the bench as the final seconds ran out.
Syracuse was right in it despite a rough performance from its star point guard.
But the second half wasn’t any easier. Louisville quickly ran out to a 48-40 lead, while limiting SU to two free throws in the first four-plus minutes. Like in the first half, though, Syracuse never let the hole get too big.
The Orange remained within at least six throughout the half before cutting it to one thanks to a couple defensive stops and a drive by Carter-Williams.
It set the stage for his go-ahead 3-pointer from the left wing, giving Syracuse its first lead of the half at 64-62 with 5:28 to play. Running down the court, fists clenched, Carter-Williams and Syracuse could feel the tide turning.
The next time down the court, the SU point guard saved a broken play, greeting a sloppy pass by Triche and firing it down low for an easy layup by Jerami Grant.
“It’s not how you start all the time, it’s how you finish,” said Triche of Carter-Williams, who finished with 16 points and seven assists. “And I think he finished a game that he should, he finished in a way that pretty much won us the game.”
He won it with his final clutch play on the steal and dunk with 24 seconds to go. Louisville owned the lead and controlled the game in the final two minutes until Carter-Williams streaked down the floor for the dunk and added a free throw.
With one more play to be made, Carter-Williams came through again, tying up Dieng for the game’s final stop.
“It was just all off adrenaline,” Carter-Williams said. “I just owed it to my teammates and to my coaches and to finish that play and to win the game.”
- Freshman Grant continues stellar play, finishes with 10 points in win over Louisville
- Triche holds off Louisville early, earns praise from Pitino in upset of No. 1 Louisville
- Defensive struggle, late heroics mirror 2012 Syracuse win at Louisville
- Poll: After upsetting No. 1 Louisville, where should Syracuse be ranked?
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