This game was really everything it was billed up to be: in a game between the No. 1 and No. 6 teams in the country, both squads showed up in front of a record crowd at the KFC Yum! Center. Punches were landed and answered with counterpunches as each team traded the lead, but a coast-to-coast steal and slam by Michael Carter-Williams in the waning seconds gave Syracuse a one-point lead, and they held on for the win.
The Orange were hot early, scoring the first six points and leading 11-3. Then, Louisville started to force turnovers, as Syracuse turned the ball over 11 times in the first half - nine of which Louisville kept alive as steals. Four threes made the score 19-18, in Louisville's favor, then the Cardinals went on a 10-1 run. But Brandon Triche wouldn't let his team go away: he hit all seven of his shot attempts -- including four threes -- and scored ten straight to rally his team back. Triche finished with 18 in the first half, nearly half of his team's points, but with his team trailing by three on the last possession of the half, he wiggled open and hit Carter-Williams, who drilled an open shot to send the teams to the half tied at 38.
Louisville opened the second on a 10-2 run, thanks to some trademark ridiculous plays by Russ Smith, but of course, Syracuse battled back to tie the game at 52. The teams traded buckets for a while with the lead ricocheting back and forth, but Carter-Williams, the sophomore, picked up where Triche left off: he scored seven straight points to give Syracuse a 66-62 lead, but the Cardinals would respond by scoring six straight -- four on Russ Smith free throws -- to take a lead of their own.
Carter-Williams would miss a critical free throw that would have tied the game with under a minute left, but immediately responded by stealing and finishing the decisive slam. He'd miss another free throw though, allowing Louisville to potentially tie the game with a two on the final possession, but it didn't come through as Gorgui Dieng couldn't handle Peyton Siva's pass.
Here's a .GIF of Carter-Williams' dunk:
Triche couldn't continue his ridiculous pace from the first half, finishing with 23 points. Siva had a real off game, only hitting one of nine shots and committing turnovers on two of Louisville's final three possessions. Louisville's player of the game might have been Gorgui Dieng, who put himself in the soft spot in the middle of Syracuse's 2-3 zone, dealing out six assists and grabbing five offensive rebounds as defenders couldn't recover from their zone positioning to box him out. That zone hurt Syracuse at times -- when they couldn't guard shooters, and as Louisville got 14 offensive boards -- but it put clamps on Siva and stopped the Cardinals late, holding them scoreless in the final minute. The Louisville loss spoils a great game from Smith, who led all scorers with 25.