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January 19, 2013
Louisville hosted a basketball game as the No. 1 team in the nation for the first time in school history Saturday. The Cardinals fell in the final minutes to No. 6 Syracuse in a Big East showdown. CardinalSports.com's Howie Lindsey was on the baseline with five quick thoughts.
1. Big-Time Atmosphere
It was a record crowd at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville and it was the loudest the arena has been this season. An all-time record 22,814 Louisville fans stood for long portions of the second half, booed lustily at referee calls and cheered loudly on each possession.
After Louisville tied the score at 66 with 2:19 to go, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim called a timeout and the crowd stood and clapped in unison as the song "Sandstorm" played.
As Syracuse took the game on the final three possessions, the crowd went from deafening loud to shocked silence.
2. The Bench Came Up Big
Louisville ended the first half tied with Syracuse after both teams held three possession leads - Syracuse by eight with 16:16 left and Louisville by nine with 6:44 left. Louisville's bench kept the Cardinals in the lead for the majority of the first half.
Despite Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng scoring just one point combined in the first half, Louisville's bench outscored Syracuse 15-4. Montrezl Harrell had eight points including a pair of big dunks. Kevin Ware scored three points and Luke Hancock had four points and was a steadying influence throughout the first half.
The Cardinals finished the game with an 18-16 edge in bench scoring as Louisville's starters picked up the slack in the second half.
3. Triche's Big Half
Senior shooting guard Brandon Triche didn't miss a show in the first half against Louisville. He hit four three-pointers, three two-pointers and finished the first half with 18 points. He also had three rebounds, an assist and a turnover.
Louisville's defense shifted in the second half and Triche missed his first three shots and didn't score until the 8:40 mark. He finished with 23 points on 9 of 13 shooting.
4. Louisville's Pressure Defense?
This Louisville team's trademark is its defense, but after shutting down USF - the Bulls scored 38 points - and cranking up the pressure on UConn in the second half, Louisville allowed Syracuse to hit 60.9 percent of its shots in the first half.
But the Cardinals' pressure defense forced 12 first half Syracuse turnovers including six from Michael Carter-Williams, matching his season high in just 17 minutes of the first half.
Syracuse had just four turnovers in the second half, and sophomore Michael Carter-Williams, who had six turnovers in the first half, finished with eight turnovers at the end of the game.
5. Louisville's Backcourt Split
Louisville's vaunted backcourt was split on Saturday - Peyton Siva struggled while Russ Smith continued to score.
Siva had several open threes from the top of the key, but finished the game 1-7 shooting from beyond-the-arc and 1-9 overall. He had six assists to just three turnovers, but his turnovers came at inopportune moments. None of Louisville's 12 steals were credited to Siva.
Smith came into the Syracuse game averaging 19 points a game in just 27 minutes per game. The wiry, quick New York native's skill was on full display against Syracuse. Smith was not as efficient as he has been this season, but he did score 25 points on 8 of 17 shooting with five steals.