Men's Basketball

Triche holds off Louisville early, earns praise from Pitino in upset of No. 1 Louisville

Courtesy of The Courier-Journal

Brandon Triche handles the ball under heavy pressure against Louisville Saturday. The senior guard shot a perfect 7-for-7 in the first half win against the No. 1 Cardinals.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jim Boeheim saw trouble brewing. His Syracuse team had only managed one point in the previous four-plus minutes and trailed the No. 1 team in the nation by nine points late in the first half.

In stepped Brandon Triche to ease his coach’s worries and keep his team in the game. Unfazed by the hostile environment inside Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center, the senior guard scored 10 straight points for Syracuse to slice the lead from seven to one.

“We needed Brandon there to come back and make those shots, and he made them,” Boeheim said. “I think he’s capable of doing that every game and when he plays like that we’re a different team. We need him to play like that.”

Triche finished the first half perfect from the field to score 18 of his team-high 23 points and help the Orange take a tie into halftime. His poised play prevented the Cardinals from breaking the game open, allowing SU to hang around long enough to take down Louisville in the final minute. He shot the ball with confidence in his 9-of-13 shooting performance from the field and provided the Orange with a scorer on a night when Michael Carter-Williams and C.J. Fair weren’t at their best.

Triche set the tone from the start, pouring in eight consecutive points to help SU jump out to a 14-7 lead. The Louisville fans were anxious to get going, but each Cardinals miss and Triche make kept them at bay in the first five minutes.

A strong crossover and hanging finish in the lane got Triche on the board. A pair of 3s gave him confidence in his shot that persisted for the rest of the game.

“It’s going to be somebody different every night, it just happened to be me tonight,” Triche said. “I was pretty hot just making shots, just making plays, it’s just whatever I have to do to help this team, it’s not all about scoring points, just being aggressive, making them play me.”

But Triche wouldn’t shoot again until the troubling Cardinals’ run threatened to bury the Orange before halftime. And as Louisville made its run, the home crowd became part of the game, exploding with each big shot and stop.

Then Triche got going again, cleaning up a blocked shot by Gorgui Dieng in the paint. A pull-up 3 on the ensuing SU possession left Louisville head coach Rick Pitino livid along the sidelines. And another the next time down the floor, off a crisp cross-court pass by Carter-Williams, brought Syracuse within one.

Though Louisville dictated the pace of the game, limited Carter-Williams and executed offensively, the game was far from over thanks to Triche.

“Guys found me, I was pretty hot,” Triche said. “I think more so I was seeking a shot trying to do whatever I can to help my team out. I went on a run, but defensively we wasn’t making stops.”

In the second half, Syracuse bucked down and made the key stops. Carter-Williams came to life and left his stamp on the game late.

Syracuse battled from an eight-point deficit to tie the game at 52-52, but Louisville’s Peyton Siva swished a 3 from the top of the key. Triche’s scorching pace slowed, but he knocked down a 3 to even the score, holding his follow while preparing for the offensive rebound.

His tough drive minutes later kept SU within one as the teams traded buckets at the start of what would be a wild finish to the upset victory.

And in a game where every point was crucial, Triche’s scoring punch couldn’t be understated. Boeheim repeatedly mentioned his senior’s play kept the Orange in it early, and Triche earned Pitino’s respect with his all-around play.

On this day, Triche was the best player on the floor for the majority of the game. Because of it, Syracuse was good enough to top the No. 1 team.

“He is probably the most underrated basketball player in the nation,” Pitino said. “He does an awful lot and he’s very smart. He made some great 3s in the first half. They weren’t easy.”

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