Cards fall short on the road against Syracuse
Scoop Jardine wore a satisfied look on his face. It didn't matter one bit that he failed to score in the final home game of his Syracuse career, not with another victory in the books.
Brandon Triche scored 18 points, Dion Waiters had 13, and second-ranked Syracuse beat Louisville (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 19 AP) 58-49 on Saturday to finish the season unbeaten at home.
"We won," Jardine said. "Man. I'd rather go out like I did, having zero points and a big win against a Louisville team that we hardly beat throughout my years than to have 30 points and a loss. That's not who I am. To get a big win on a Saturday against a team that you hardly beat -- this is special. This is something I'll always remember."
So, too, will the crowd of 33,205, the fifth-largest in the history of the Carrier Dome. Syracuse (30-1, 17-1 Big East) capped only its second unbeaten season in the dome since it opened in 1980, going 19-0. The only other team to go undefeated in the dome was the national championship squad of 2002-03 led by Carmelo Anthony, which finished 17-0.
"They've done everything you could ask them to," coach Jim Boeheim said. "It's a very unselfish team. They look for each other. They've had just a tremendous season."
The Orange also matched the conference record for victories set in 1995-96 by Connecticut and finished the regular season with 30 wins for the first time in Boeheim's 36-year tenure.
"I knew we were going to be good," said senior Kris Joseph, who finished with 11 points. "I didn't know we were going to be this good and finish this strong. It's just a blessing to be a part of this team."
Syracuse, which has a double-bye heading into the Big East tournament next week at Madison Square Garden, held the Cardinals (22-9, 10-8) to 2-of-23 shooting from 3-point range and a season low in points. Kyle Kuric was 1 of 7, and Russ Smith and Chris Smith combined to go 0 for 11 from long range.
"They played great defense and we stopped being aggressive," said Louisville point guard Peyton Siva, who took only two shots and had four points to go with six turnovers. "They did a great job playing the lanes today and they made great adjustments. They're not ranked No. 2 for nothing."
Chane Behanan and Smith led Louisville with 10 points apiece, while Gorgui Dieng finished with six on 3-of-13 shooting.
"The thing that I like so much about this (Syracuse) team is they make shots," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "We should have beaten them at our place. They're a very good team. We'll see if they're a great team come tournament time."
It was the Orange's second straight victory over Louisville after they snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Cardinals with a 52-51 victory at the KFC Yum! Center on Feb. 13, scoring the game's final six points. That game was a defensive struggle as both teams shot just under 35 percent, with the Orange going 1 of 15 from long range.
This one was more of the same at the outset before Syracuse came alive midway through the opening half. After falling behind 15-9 when Fab Melo was called for goaltending against Behanan with 11:44 to go, the Orange clamped down on defense and didn't allow another basket until Smith's layup with 1:33 to go before the break.
Waiters scored six points to key a 12-0 spurt by the Orange, his spinning layup through the lane eliciting a huge roar from the crowd. Melo's block on Dieng then sent Triche in for a fast-break layup and two free throws by James Southerland gave Syracuse a 26-16 lead with 4:00 left.
Louisville lost at home to South Florida, 58-51 on Wednesday night, managing a season-low 17 points in the first half, and the Cardinals trailed 26-19 at the break in this one. They were 1 of 11 from beyond the arc in the first half as both teams shot 8 of 25 from the floor.
Triche, who hadn't reached double figures in the past seven games, scored the first eight points of the second half to boost the lead to 15. He hit a 3 from the right side to open the period and followed his own miss on a lob, forcing the Cardinals to call a timeout as the game slipped away. Triche then swished another 3, this one from the left corner after a pretty passing play with Melo, Joseph and Jardine.
Consecutive baskets by Smith stopped the surge, but only briefly. Two layups by C.J. Fair, Joseph's 3, and a steal and layup by Waiters boosted the lead to 45-27 with 13:00 left.
The Cardinals had a late charge in them, though. Kuric converted a layup and a 3 from the left corner, his first baskets of the game, and Siva's layup moved Louisville within 50-40 as Syracuse went nearly 6 minutes without a point.
Four free throws by Triche and a 3 by Waiters in the final 3 minutes sent the hometown crowd into one last frenzy and put a stamp on a remarkable season.
"It's awesome to get 30 wins in a season," Triche said. "Any time you can get a 'W' it don't matter who it's against. We ended the season playing pretty well. That's all you want to do."
"It's pretty impressive when you look at it five years from now," he added. "Right now, if we don't do well (in the postseason), 30 wins is going to mean nothing."
Joseph, Jardine, and reserves Brandon Reese, Nick Resavy and Matt Tomaszewski were honored in a pregame ceremony on Senior Day.