Te University of Louisville basketball team dropped back-to-back games for the first time since January of 2013, falling 69-59 on the road at Syracuse.
The Cardinals were without starting point guard Chris Jones (suspension) and didn't get anything out of senior forward Wayne Blackshear. He had 0 points, 0 rebounds and 0 assists before fouling out after just 19 minutes.
Freshman point guard Quentin Snider and center Chinanu Onuaku showed flashes, while Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier led the Cardinals in scoring. But U of L played what Rick Pitino called "very poor" defense and couldn't stop Rakeem Christms.
Christmas finished with 29 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots.
It was the second straight loss for Louisville (20-6, 8-5) after losing to N.C. State on Saturday. It was the second loss in a row also after leading at halftime and U of L is now 78-3 in its last 81 games after leading at the break.
"Normally, you know how I am after a loss,” Pitino said on 840 WHAS. ""I'm disappointed we lost, but I'm proud of our team. In the second half, we just missed shots. We had two wide-opens in the corner, we had a missed dunk on a breakaway."
Louisville hit 9 of its first 12 shots of the game and finished 23 of 54 from the field and 7 of 14 from the free-throw line. The Orange ended 22 of 47 from the field and 21 of 27 on free throws, with U of L winning the rebounds 32-31.
The biggest loss going into the game was that of Jones, who was suspended by Pitino. Snider made his first start in place of the team's assist leader (3.7 per game) and third-leading scorer (13.6 points). The Kentucky Mr. Basketball from Ballard High School finished with 13 points, four assists, three rebounds and no turnovers in 38 minutes.
"Q played terrific," Pitino said. “Defensively he has a long way to go. But he did fine. He took two big shots from the corner late that didn't go down. He penetrated fine. He passed the ball. He actually, to tell you the truth, in running the zone offense did a much better job than Chris Jones has been doing because he got the ball moving.
"You couldn't expect any more (from Q). We're real proud of him."
Harrell finished with 15 points and nine rebounds but only scored three points in the second half for the Cardinals. Rozier led the Cardinals with 17 points and Onuaku finished with 8 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks in 31 minutes.
But it was a big-time no show by Blackshear that really hurt. ESPN Stats and Info reported that Blackshear was the first starter for an ACC school in a game to go without a point, rebound or assist since Seth Curry for Duke did it in 2011.
"It was missed free throws and the fact that Wayne Blackshear was not on the court that really hurt us," Pitino said.
U of L led for much of the game before the Orange turned to Christmas. He hit a pair of free throws sandwiched by buckets to make it 58-52 with 5:06 left.
The Orange scored again before Snider hit a three-pointer to cut it to five. But Louisville went cold late and the Orange iced it by hitting 7 of 8 free throws in the final 63 seconds.
Pitino said he was unsure if Jones would return for Saturday's game against Miami.
“If I go back and he hasn’t taken care of it, hell could freeze over before he puts on a Louisville uniform again," he said, adding that "He did the wrong things a Louisville man doesn’t do. He’s paid the consequences and he’s hurt our team.”