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January 22, 2013

Cards eager to start another run at Villanova

Louisville's 70-68 loss to Syracuse Saturday afternoon in the KFC Yum! Center was a costly one. It cost the Cardinals (16-2, 4-1) their brief No. 1 ranking, an 11-game winning streak and the Big East Conference lead.

But all are retrievable, so there were no hanging heads in the UofL locker room after the Orange (17-1, 5-0) beat the Cards for the third time in a row. In fact, they were looking forward to putting together another run, beginning with Tuesday night's game against Vilanova (11-7, 2-3) at 8 o'clock in the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

The Cards' confidence certainly didn't appear to be shaken.

"It's over. It's behind us," guard Peyton Siva said. "Bygones be bygones. Let's focus on Villanova. We can make another run. We won 11 straight before. Why not do it again?"

"I'm not hurt at all," center Gorgui Dieng said. "It was a good basketball team. We compete, and they end up winning. We give them a lot of credit. We'll watch film tomorrow and see what we did right and wrong."

Said guard Russ Smith, whose 25 points led Louisville: "It was a great atmosphere. It was a lot of fun to be out there. Right now all we're looking forward to is the next game. Chop this one up on the (film) edits and move forward."

And from forward Chane Behanan: "We can't let this game get to us. We've got a long, long season ahead of us. We've still got 16 or 17 games. We need to keep our composure and come back next week and get it done."

In truth, coach Rick Pitino's mood after the game wasn't as upbeat as his players'. He ridiculed a couple of questions and acknowledged, "I'm pissed." Pitino didn't seem to be following his own advice he had imparted to fans on numerous occasions over the past few weeks that UofL was going to lose some games and nobody should get upset.

However, he did give Syracuse its due. "It was a matchup between two really good teams. . .It's not easy to beat our basketball team and they did it, so they deserve a lot of credit."

To get back on the right track, foremost, the Cards will have to play with more poise against Villanova, and then against Georgetown (12-4, 2-3) on the road Saturday, than they did down the stretch against Syracuse.

Louisville led 62-57 heading into the last 7 1/2 minutes. Granted, that's not much, but that's about the time you expect the No. 1 team, playing at home against a younger, more inexperienced squad, to close the deal. Instead, the Cards hit only four of their last 21 shots. Their final four possessions resulted in one field goal and four free throws. Dieng and Siva combined to miss 12 of 14 shots and finish with only seven points.

"We were rattled," Behanan said. "We weren't playing like we play. We didn't keep our composure. We've been through a lot of games like that over the last year or so and we should have kept our composure."

Regardless of the outcome, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said he doesn't necessarily think the best team won.

"I think Louisville is the best team," Boeheim said. "I don't think there's any doubt about that in my mind. Today, we just hung in there and were able to get a couple of steals at the end of the game. They will be there at the end of the year. I think they will be the team to beat in the country when it all comes down to it at the end."

Pitino will give his post-mortem on the defeat and look ahead to Villanova in his usual pre-game press conference late Monday afternoon.


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