Sophomore forward C.J. Fair scored a team best 13 points, including the game-winning layup with 2:12 remaining, to help the No. 2-ranked Syracuse Orange scrap their way to a 52-51 victory over the No. 19 Louisville Cardinals in a Big East Conference men's basketball game at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville on Monday.
Fair was the lone bright light in a game that featured poor long-range shooting (1-for-15, 6.7-percent) and some questionable decision making, as Syracuse (26-1, 13-1 Big East) earned their sixth straight victory and snapped a seven-game losing streak to Louisville (20-6, 8-5).
"We made a couple stops and Brandon Triche made a big bucket,and we got another big bucket [Fair's] and we hung on in the end," said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim to ESPN's Jay Bilas after the game.
"I am just proud of our defense, we hung in there. We had a couple chances to win, you know, its just a tough defensive game. Both teams are playing good defense right now. It's good to get a win right here."
Syracuse junior guard Brandon Triche tallied eight points, the most critical ending a 10-0 Louisville run, which gave the Cards a 51-46 advantage with 6:48 remaining.
Triche's bucket trimmed the margin to 51-48, and after a defensive stop sophomore center Fab Melo, who tallied 11 points and six rebounds, made consecutive free throws to make it 51-50 with 2:54 to go.
After another defensive stand, Fair tapped a layup off the backboard after receiving a nice pass from sophomore guard Dion Waiters, and helped the Orange cap the scoring at 52-51.
Lousiville had a chance to take the lead in the closing seconds, but Waiters stole a bad pass and ran away from defenders before he was fouled with 1.5 seconds left. He missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Louisville couldn't control the desperation inbound pass after calling timeout to set up a last-second play.
"I'm very, very disappointed we lost the game," said Louisville head coach Rick Pitino after the game.
"When it comes down to it, very simple, we didn't make free throws," said Pitino. "That's what's so bothersome."
Louisville finished the game 12-for-21 from the free throw line (57.1percent) but also turned the ball over 16 times. Syracuse committed just eight turnovers and went 9-for-11 from the charity stripe. Melo, a 61.1-percent shooter from the line, finished a perfect 3 of 3.
"It's good," said Fair after the game when asked by Bilas how the victory feels. "Louisville has had our number for the past few years, and it feels good to get Scoop (Jardine) a win and Kris Joseph, our seniors, who haven't beat Louisville. It feels good."
Waiters finished the game with a stat-stuffing performance of seven points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal, while Joseph tallied seven points and six rebounds. Jardine ended the game with no points and five assists. He was on the bench in the closing moments.
"This was a type of game that's going to help us get better," said Boeheim.
Louisville freshman forward Chane Behanan had a breakout performance netting 16 points and collecting nine rebounds. Junior point guard Peyton Siva tallied all eight of his points in the first half to help the Cardinals to a 24-22 halftime lead.
Louisville trailed 46-41 with 6:09 to go but tallied 10 straight, including four from Behanan and a 3-point jumper from junior forward Chris Smith, to take a 51-46 lead.
In the end, Smith tallied 10 points as the Cardinals were held to 5-of-19 from behind the 3-point arc.
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