The Louisville Cardinals needed to make a splash to improve its NCAA tournament resume and did it in a huge way Sunday afternoon with a stunning 66-60 upset over Syracuse on the road.
Louisville came into the game squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble with a pedestrian 6-5 conference record and no out of conference wins to stand on. Samardo Samuels scored all eight of his points during a late surge and Jerry Smith sank a pair of clutch free throws with 17.8 seconds left as Louisville rallied.
The Cardinals, who trailed by 11 in the first half, hung on to win despite missing 5 of 7 free throws in the final 1:41, including a pair by Smith just two seconds after the two he converted.
“We did a very good job of moving the basketball, taking smart shots and playing good defense down the stretch,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said.
It was the fifth straight win over the Orange for Louisville, which was 0-4 against ranked teams entering the game.
Scarlet Knights shock up-and-down Hoyas
The last time Jonathan Mitchell set a career high for points was against Georgetown. There wasn’t much to celebrate then. The junior forward did it again Sunday, only this time he got to enjoy a huge win with his teammates.
Mitchell scored 24 points, three more than his previous career high he had against the Hoyas in a 25-point loss last month, and the Scarlet Knights beat a top-10 team for the first time in seven years, winning 71-68 over Georgetown.
Mitchell made his first seven shots, including four 3-pointers, and the Scarlet Knights, who were 15th in the 16-team Big East coming in, didn’t fold against a team that came in tied for third place.
Georgetown was coming off a 103-90 victory over Villanova Feb. 6 and now match up with Syracuse on Thursday, the true definition of a “trap game.”
Two games to watch
Syracuse at Georgetown, Thursday, Feb. 18
Both teams will be looking to bounce back from disappointing losses in this game. The Hoyas come into the game 11-3 at home and are led by Austin Freeman’s 16.8 points per game. The Orange smoked Georgetown in the team’s first meeting 73-56 back on Jan. 25. Syracuse will need a big performance from Wesley Johnson, who has not been the same player since being injured against Providence earlier in the month.
Pittsburgh at Marquette, Thursday, Feb. 18
The Panthers are looking to improve their seeding in both the Big East and NCAA tournaments, attempting to build off a huge 98-95 triple overtime win against West Virginia last Friday night. Pittsburgh gets 16.8 ppg from Ashton Gibbs. Marquette picked up a big win over a hot South Florida team on Saturday and need another victory to erase any doubts about being left out of the NCAA tournament. The Golden Eagles are led by Lazar Hayward’s 18.6 ppg.
Player of the week
Corey Fisher, Villanova Jr. G
Fisher was instrumental in leading the Wildcats to a big win over West Virginia Feb. 8 on the road as well in the 92-81 win over Providence Saturday afternoon, which propelled Villanova into first place in the Big East. Fisher poured in 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting and six assists in the Providence game, with an additional 17 points and three assists against West Virginia.
Points per game: 14.2
Assists per game: 4.1
Rebounds per game: 3.1
Three point percentage: 37.8
Field goal percentage: 47.3
Free throw percentage: 78.8