Syracuse, N.Y. -- The No. 1-ranked team in the country has lost seven times this season, but only once at home, when then-No. 1 Louisville against Syracuse on Feb. 19 at the KFC Yum! Center.
The No. 10 Cardinals gained a measure of revenge for that loss on Saturday, when they downed the No. 12 Orange, 58-53, in a Big East Conference game before 31,173 fans at the Carrier Dome.
It was the second largest on-campus crowd of the season after the record 35,012 that attended last Saturday's game between Syracuse and Georgetown at the Dome.
"It was a good win for us," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "They hung in there and showed the character of a great team at our place, and I thought we hung in there and got some difficult calls (by the refs) and didn't crack -- except me."
With the score tied, 48-48, Luke Hancock of Louisville sank a deep 3-pointer from the wing with 53 seconds remaining. Hancock, who entered the game shooting 37 percent from 3-point range (39-for-115), shot 4-for-5 from long range Saturday.
"Our trainer said he's had two bad shoulder separations, one was really difficult, and he wasn't going to start feeling good until mid-February," Pitino said of Hancock.
"He just started feeling good about a week ago."
Russ Smith made four consecutive free throws for the Cardinals in the final 34 seconds and finished with a team-high 18 points.
"I love shooting free throws," Smith said. "My dad (Russ Smith Sr.), he's a big free throw guy and once made about 70-75 in a row. There was a point in time when I was a terrible free throw shooter, so I always put in the work."
C.J. Fair led the Orange with 19 points. Fair's 3-pointer cut Louisville's lead to 56-53 with 4.6 seconds remaining, but Smith's two free throws iced the victory for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals improved to 24-5 overall and 12-4 in the Big East, while the Orange dropped to 22-7 and 10-6.
Louisville is second in the Big East behind Georgetown (12-3), which hosts Rutgers Saturday night.
The top four teams in the conference will earn byes into the Big East Tournament, and Syracuse is battling four teams for the two available byes after Georgetown and Louisville.
The Cardinals have won eight of their last nine games, with the only loss being the epic five-overtime setback to Notre Dame on Feb. 9. The victory also snapped Louisville's three-game losing streak against the Orange.
Syracuse, which had its 38-game homecourt winning streak ended against Georgetown last Saturday, has lost two consecutive home games for the first time since Jan. 22 and 25, 2011, against Villanova and Seton Hall.
The Orange has lost three consecutive games overall and hasn't lost four in a row since January 2010.
Trailing, 28-23, the Orange used back-to-back dunks by Rakeem Christmas and James Southerland and Southerland's 3-pointer to take its first lead since early in the first half, 30-28.
Southerland's second and third 3-pointers of the half erased one-point deficits and gave Syracuse 35-33 and 38-36 leads.
Hancock's 3-pointer enabled the Cardinals to regain the lead, 39-38. A few minutes later, Hancock drained another 3-pointer that capped an 11-2 run and boosted Louisville's lead to 47-40.
However, Michael Carter-Williams of Syracuse scored six consecutive points on four free throws and a layup as the Orange pulled within 47-46.
But over the next three minutes, the Orange committed four turnovers, including three by senior guard Brandon Triche. Syracuse committed 16 turnovers against Louisville's press and match-up zone defense, and the Cardinals scored 16 points off those turnovers.
"I thought we did an unbelievable job, down seven, to get back in the lead and we made four turnovers after that," Orange coach Jim Boeheim said. "That's not something we've done this year.
"You just can't make those mistakes in these kind of games, a tournament-type game. It's not something we've done this year, but we did it today."
In its three-game losing streak (Georgetown, Marquette and Louisville), Syracuse has had a chance to win down the stretch but let each game slip away.
"We've just got to finish games," Triche said. "A lot of it's on me. We have to take care of the ball and make all the right plays. We were doing that earlier, that's why we were winning close games. But now we're not."