Updated at: 03/02/2013 4:08 PM
By JOHN KEKIS
(AP) SYRACUSE, N.Y. - When Syracuse was overwhelming teams in the nonconference schedule early in the season, the Orange felt they could beat anybody. That feeling hasn’t changed despite three straight losses that have them reeling with two games to play in the regular season.
The latest setback came at the hands of No. 10 Louisville, which rallied in the final minute for a 58-53 victory Saturday to exact a measure of revenge for a loss to Syracuse earlier in the season.
"I think Coach believes in us, even though we’ve lost three in a row," said Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams, whose six assists boosted his season total to 228. "I believe we can play good. When we play our game, I do believe we can beat anybody. We have great players on our team. We should be confident. If we’re getting blown out, maybe I’d question our confidence, but we’re in every game."
In four of its past nine games, Syracuse (22-7, 10-6 Big East) didn’t break 60 points, and a week ago was held to 46, a Carrier Dome low, in an embarrassing loss to archrival Georgetown. Not a good omen with the postseason looming.
"We didn’t shoot the ball well the whole game and haven’t shot the ball well," coach Jim Boeheim said. "In spite of that, we gave ourselves a chance to win."
Luke Hancock hit a 3-pointer from the corner to break a tie with 50 seconds left and Louisville hung on.
The loss to Georgetown came before a record Carrier Dome crowd of 35,012. That snapped the Orange’s 38-game home winning streak, and they were beaten again, 74-71, at No. 22 Marquette on Monday night to drop into a tie with Notre Dame behind the league-leading Hoyas, Louisville and Marquette.
The Irish, who have the same record as Syracuse, lost at Marquette on Saturday as the race to get a double-bye in the Big East tournament heated up. Pittsburgh, also 10-6, hosts Villanova on Sunday.
Louisville (24-5, 12-4) snapped a three-game losing streak against Syracuse, and the Cardinals did it before a stunned crowd of 31,173.
Russ Smith led Louisville with 18 points, Hancock had 12, all on 3s, and Gorgui Dieng finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
C.J. Fair had 19 points to lead the Orange, James Southerland added 13 and Carter-Williams 11.
Syracuse outrebounded Louisville 41-36 but was victimized by eight 3-pointers and shot poorly again (20 of 56 for 35.7 percent). Louisville held a 16-9 edge on points off turnovers and a 14-8 edge at the free throw line.
"This was a tough loss," Fair said. "Even though Louisville is a tough team, you never want to lose three in a row. We had a couple of chances to win this game. It just fell through. Louisville made some tough plays to knock us off."
Senior guard Brandon Triche, one of the heroes in the win over Louisville in mid-January with 23 points, had just eight on this day, going 2 for 11 from the floor and missing all three of his tries from long range. Syracuse’s starting guards finished 5 of 21 and 1 of 7 on 3-pointers, and Triche had a game-high seven turnovers.
"We can’t have him (Triche) play this way," Boeheim said. "He works his tail off. He’s a good teammate. He wants to win, but I don’t like the way he’s playing right now. I don’t like the way we’re playing. We need to get something offensively."
After Hancock swished a straight-on 3 for Louisville, Fair hit a spinning layup as Dieng fouled him but missed the free throw and Syracuse trailed 41-40 with 7:34 to go.
Louisville began to press and the strategy paid off with two straight turnovers. Southerland lost the ball off the dribble and Triche mishandled an inbounds pass. The Cardinals took advantage as Dieng sank two free throws and Hancock hit a 3 from the wing for a 47-40 lead at 5:35.
Carter-Williams scored six straight points in a span of just over a minute to rally the Orange, hitting four free throws and a shot off the glass as Syracuse trailed 47-46 with 4:27 left. Fair’s baseline jumper gave Syracuse the lead and Smith’s free throw tied it at 48-all with 1:39 to go.
After Triche missed a baseline layup against Dieng, Hancock stole Triche’s ensuing inbounds pass and Hancock drained his fourth 3 to break the tie. Smith then hit two free throws and Triche’s turnover sealed the Orange’s fate as the Cardinals hit 7 of 8 free throws in the final seconds.
Syracuse is 4-5 in its past nine games and Triche has struggled in that stretch, shooting 17.3 percent (8 of 46) from behind the arc and committing 31 turnovers to go with 38 assists.
"It’s very disappointing (to be playing this way) because it’s out of my character," Triche, a four-year starter, said. "When it’s out of your character, it hurts."
Syracuse beat Louisville 70-68 in mid-January in the final seconds when Carter-Williams stole a pass at the top of the key and raced the length of the court, slamming home a two-hander that Dieng couldn’t contest and landing hard on his back underneath the backboard. A record crowd of 22,814 at the KFC Yum! Center saw Syracuse beat a No. 1 team for fourth time, and the Cardinals are still the only top-ranked team to lose at home this season.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)