LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Syracuse entered Monday night’s game at Louisville on a two-game losing streak and with just six healthy scholarship players. That was enough for the Orange to walk out with their biggest win of the season.
Tyus Battle scored 25 points to lead Syracuse to a 78-73 victory over Louisville Monday night.
“This was our best win in a long time,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.
Syracuse (16-8, 5-6) never trailed in the final 28:33. However, the Cardinals (16-8, 6-5) made it interesting down the stretch against the Orange.
Syracuse led 65-53 with 7:36 remaining, but Louisville pulled within 67-65 after two free throws from Ray Spalding with 4:05 left. The Cardinals then went more than two minutes without a basket.
Spalding, who did not start after injuring his ankle in Saturday’s loss to Florida State, finished with 18 points and nine rebounds.
Jordan Nwora hit a 3-pointer for Louisville with 27 seconds left to get within 73-70, but the Cardinals would not get a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds. Battle, who made all 11 of his free throws, sank four of them in the final 11 seconds to secure the victory.
“It shows the true character of a team,” said Frank Howard, who added 22 points for Syracuse. “Like I’ve been saying all year, we’re fighters. We got a team full of soldiers. … We want to build off this.”
Both Howard and Battle shot 7 of 15 from the floor Monday. Boeheim credited his backcourt duo’s shooting for lifting the Orange to the win.
Oshae Brisett added 16 for Syracuse.
Anas Mahmoud and Deng Adel finished with 10 each for Louisville, who made just of 5 of 21 3-pointers against the Orange’s zone defense.
Syracuse: The second-worst shooting team in the Atlantic Coast Conference shot 47.2 percent, its third-best mark in conference play. Every time it seemed like Louisville would claw its way back into the contest, an Orange player would step up to make a big basket.
Louisville: The Cardinals lost their third straight game, the first time they’ve done that since the 2012-13 season. That squad ended up winning the national championship, but this team finds itself squarely on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament.
Defense has been a big issue for Louisville in its current skid, as the Cardinals have allowed opponents to shoot 45 percent or better in their last four games.
“We haven’t played very well these last couple games, and it’s 100 percent up to me as the head coach to get it figured out,” interim coach David Padgett said. “We will.”
HE SAID IT
“It’s interesting that the other three coaches are still coaching. I don’t know if that means anything or not,” Boeheim, talking about his long-time friend and former Louisville coach Rick Pitino. Pitino was removed as coach in September just before the start of practices and fired officially less than a month later after the FBI announced it was investigating the school as part of a bribery scandal. The Syracuse coach added that he felt Pitino has been one of the two best coaches in the modern college era.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
The two consecutive home losses for Louisville means the 2017-18 season will be the first with more than one home conference loss since the 2014-15 season, the Cardinals first in the ACC. Over the last six years, Louisville has a 41-10 conference record at the KFC Yum Center.
Syracuse: The Orange return to action Sunday, when Wake Forest travels to the Carrier Dome for an afternoon tilt. The Demon Deacons are 0-5 on the road in ACC play this season.
Louisville: The Cardinals wrap up a three-game home stand on Thursday evening, when Georgia Tech comes calling. The Yellow Jackets knocked off Syracuse 55-51 at home on Wednesday.