LOUISVILLE — Sitting atop college basketball's wall with a No. 1 ranking, Louisville had a great fall Saturday.
No. 6 Syracuse came in before a KFC Yum Center record crowd of 22,814 and stunned the Cardinals 70-68.
The thing is, all the king's forces think they can put U of L together again, starting with Tuesday's Big East game at Villanova.
"That's why we love the conference — game right after game," said Russ Smith, who led Louisville with 25 points. "Just got to put it behind you. ... Right now, everybody's morale is pretty high — I would hope so — and let's handle business on Tuesday."
Syracuse handled matters Saturday, Michael Carter-Williams scoring the last four points.
The national leader in assists (9.4 per game before Saturday's seven), he made the first half of a one-and-one with 53 seconds left to cut U of L's lead to 68-67.
Then the 6-foot-6 sophomore stole the ball, zipped downcourt and dunked over 6-11 Gorgui Dieng for a 69-68 lead with 23 seconds left.
"He's a big-time player. He's got a lot of heart," Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim said of Carter-Williams. "He'll make plays. I knew when he got the steal, I knew he'd have to dunk it over Dieng, and he did."
Syracuse's Jerami Grant, son of former NBA banger Harvey Grant, then blocked Wayne Blackshear's close-range shot. Home fans howled for a foul call that did not come.
Carter-Williams retrieved the ball, was fouled with 13 seconds left, and made one of two free throws.
U of L's Peyton Siva tried to go inside to Dieng for a tying basket. But the big man couldn't handle the pass and Carter-Williams raked away the ball with five seconds left. He passed ahead, with Grant dunking just after the final horn.
"They made some really terrific plays down the stretch, and that was the game," Cards Coach Rick Pitino said. "So we've got to give them credit. They made the plays, they made the shots when it counted, and we didn't. ... But, a great college basketball game. And they won it."
Syracuse, which came in with the same marks as U of L — 16-1 overall, 4-0 in the Big East — has little time to prepare for its next test.
Brandon Triche, a 6-4 senior, shot 5-for-7 from three-point range and led Syracuse with 23 points. Carter-Williams had 16. Grant and C.J. Fair each scored 10, with the latter totaling eight rebounds.
Smith was U of L's only double-figure scorer. Blackshear and Chane Behanan scored nine each, and Behanan snared 11 rebounds.
"I think we got some really difficult calls down the stretch. ... But that's the game," Pitino said. "Sometimes you get the call, sometimes you don't. We've got to look at the film to decide. But I thought we made some good plays there."
The teams were never separated by double digits. U of L used a 15-1 spurt to turn an 18-13 deficit into a 28-19 lead, but the game was tied 38-all at halftime.
Triche, who had 18 points by intermission, scored 10 in a row for his team late in the half.
"He made a lot of really good threes," Pitino said. "He's probably the most underrated basketball player in the nation."
Smith picked Carter-Williams' pocket and raced downcourt for a jam that gave the Cardinals a 62-57 lead with 7:37 left.
Syracuse answered with a 9-0 run, the first seven by Carter-Williams.
Two free throws by Smith, followed by a fourth-chance bucket by Behanan tied the score at 66 with 2:30 left.
Smith, who finished 7-for-7 at the foul line, made two with 1:58 left for U of L's last lead, 68-66.
"It was a great game, and that's all you can say," Smith said. "Both teams made great plays. ... You just can't really be mad at a game like this. Everybody was doing pretty much crazy things and it was all going in. So it was a great game."
No. 6 SYRACUSE 70, No. 1 LOUISVILLE 68
SYRACUSE (17-1) — Fair 3-8 4-4 10, Christmas 1-1 0-0 2, Coleman 1-2 1-2 3, Carter-Williams 4-13 6-8 16, Triche 9-13 0-1 23, Grant 4-10 2-2 10, Cooney 1-1 0-0 2, Keita 1-1 2-3 4. Totals 24-49 15-20 70.
LOUISVILLE (16-2) — Blackshear 4-9 0-0 9, Behanan 3-8 3-4 9, Dieng 1-5 2-4 4, Smith 8-18 7-7 25, Siva 1-9 0-0 3, Ware 1-3 0-0 3, Hancock 2-2 1-3 7, Harrell 4-5 0-2 8, Van Treese 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-59 13-20 68.
Halftime—Tied 38-38. Three-point goals—Syracuse 7-15 (Triche 5-7, Carter-Williams 2-7, Grant 0-1), Louisville 7-20 (Hancock 2-2, Smith 2-8, Ware 1-1, Blackshear 1-2, Siva 1-7). Fouled out—None. Rebounds—Syracuse 36 (Fair 8), Louisville 31 (Behanan 11). Assists—Syracuse 11 (Carter-Williams 7), Louisville 17 (Dieng, Siva 6). Total fouls—Syracuse 16, Louisville 17. A—22,814.
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @markmaloneyhl. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com