Louisville 78, No. 1 Syracuse 68
A reserve guard that Louisville coach Rick Pitino considers so
bashful, he sounds shy even when he yells, made sure to send
venerable Freedom Hall out with one more memorable game.
Kyle Kuric scored all of his career-high 22 points in the second
half, and the Cardinals stunned No. 1 Syracuse 78-68 on Saturday
before a record-crowd of 20,135 at the 54-year-old venue. It was
the final game there before Louisville moves into a new downtown
“It’s an unbelievable moment,” Kuric said. “It’s what every
kid dreams of.”
Kuric may have also assured Louisville (20-11, 11-7 Big East) a
return trip to the NCAA tournament by sweeping the regular-season
series from the Orange (28-3, 15-3), whose only other loss came
against No. 17 Pittsburgh.
“These seniors have never gone to an NIT,” Pitino said. “And
now they never will.”
Although Syracuse led by eight points late in the first half,
Kuric was a one-man wrecking crew in the second. He made 9 of 11
shots – including four 3-pointers – to make for another happy
ending at Freedom Hall, which has seen its share of historic
“There have been 54 years of great basketball, and for us to
come out and beat the No. 1 team is a great going away present for
all our fans,” senior Edgar Sosa said.
Trailing 42-39 early in the second half, the Cardinals found
their inside game with three straight baskets in the paint that
gave them the lead for good. Kuric had two of them, a fastbreak
dunk and layup.
In a span of just over five minutes, Kuric also had all four of
his 3-pointers. After his second one, Syracuse’s Scoop Jardine
immediately answered with a 3, so Kuric simply answered right back
with another one. Jardine finished with 20 points.
With under four minutes left, it was Kuric’s dunk that pushed
the Louisville lead to 10, and he got another one on a break that
buried the Orange with under two minutes left.
“Everybody that comes off their bench is capable of hitting
three or four 3s,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “He might be
the best at doing that.”
Louisville took 40 3-point attempts in the game, making 12 of
them – including three by Sosa, who had 12 points.
It was a completely different game in the first half, when
Syracuse dominated the paint, getting 26 points there compared to
12 for the Cardinals.
Syracuse took an early 21-20 lead with more than six minutes to
go in the first half on a dunk by Rick Jackson, then stretched it
to a game-high eight points a couple minutes later after a
3-pointer and fastbreak layup by Jardine.
Sosa nailed a 3 seconds before halftime to make it 35-30 at the
Boeheim said Louisville seems to have deciphered the Orange’s
zone defense, and the players said they were having an off shooting
“We just weren’t flowing in our offense,” Arinze Onuaku
Although the Cardinals connected on 46 percent of their shots
and the Orange 44 percent, the two were cold from the gate,
combining for 11 shots but no points over the opening three
minutes. Jerry Smith finally hit consecutive 3s for the Cardinals,
and later turned in one of the more dazzling plays of the game,
grabbing a steal out of midair and cruising the other way to finish
with a one-handed dunk.
Smith was sidelined the second half after spraining the thumb on
his right hand.
This one had all the pageantry of the final Louisville game in
one of college basketball’s most storied arenas. The stands were
filled long before tipoff, and fans waved towels with glowing red
flashlights during player introductions.
Pitino, sporting a bright red suit coat to match the attire of
most fans in attendance, introduced the team’s seniors before the
game and expressed some sentimental thoughts about Freedom
“Never as a coach did I feel pressure,” Pitino said. “Tonight
I felt pressure for the first time. I woke up about 2:30 in the
morning and said, ‘What if we lose?’ No bid, the legends come all
this way.’ It was like a nightmare.”
Freedom Hall has hosted six national championship games, a
handful of NCAA tournament regional finals and 682 Louisville
Denny Crum, who led the Cardinals to national titles in 1980 and
1986 and whose name is adorned on the court, was introduced at
halftime alongside players from those teams.
“I love them all,” Crum said. “It’s just really fun to be
here, be around them.”