Louisville men’s basketball suffered its fourth one-point loss of the season Tuesday, dropping a 70-69 heartbreaker to Syracuse at the KFC Yum! Center.
The Cardinals (2-13, 0-4 ACC) led 35-34 at halftime and for the last time at 67-66 with 1:04 to play, but the Orange scored the game’s final four points from the free-throw line.
“I don’t know how you win a game – how is it a one-point game when we had 21 turnovers and they had 25 points off those 21 turnovers?” UofL head coach Kenny Payne said. “That goes to show that we gave it away. We gave it away. My heart goes out to my team because they deserved to win. They are getting better. They are fighting. They are trying. But at the end of the day, nobody is going to give it to you. We are going to have to take it.”
Louisville got 20 points, nine assists, four rebounds and three steals from senior guard El Ellis, as well as a career-high 19 points from redshirt freshman guard/forward Mike James, including four 3-pointers.
The Cardinals tied their season high with 17 assists and set new season highs with 15 offensive rebounds and 19 second-chance points, but it was offset by 21 UofL turnovers that became 25 Syracuse points.
“Very frustrating because they scored off most of the turnovers we had,” Ellis said. “That’s killing us, the turnovers. We were solid at the beginning of the game, and just had those mental lapses at the end. Pretty much, we just have to be better.”
The Orange (10-5, 3-1) also benefited from a 28-point performance by Joseph Girard III, including two crucial 3s in the final five minutes and the last two free throws of the game.
Louisville used an early 13-0 run to build a 19-10 advantage on a 3-pointer by redshirt junior forward Jae’Lyn Withers, but Syracuse countered with a 12-0 run to climb in front.
The Cardinals finished the half on an 8-2 burst, capped by sophomore forward Brandon Huntley-Hatfield’s jumper at the buzzer to make it a 35-34 UofL advantage.
“The game plan was to get the ball to the middle,” James said. “Once you get the ball in the middle, you can face up and kind of see guys sliding into open areas being ready to shoot, and he told us to shoot the ball confidently, and I felt like as a team we did. I feel like we made the right passes and the right decisions out of the middle, and we were aggressive, and we shot the ball very well. In their zone, that’s what you really need to do.”
Louisville scored the first six points of the second half to make it a 41-34 lead, but the Orange battled back and the game eventually resulted in 10 lead changes.
UofL reclaimed the lead for the final time on a 3-pointer from the corner by James at the 1:04 mark. Louisville never scored again as Syracuse iced the win with four free throws.
The Cardinals stay home to host Wake Forest at 3 p.m. ET Saturday. The game will air on ACC Network, and Louisville will also honor the 40th anniversary of the 1983 Final Four team.
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