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January 21, 2013

Syracuse faces Cincinnati

Michael Carter-Williams came up clutch over the weekend, helping Syracuse pull out one of its most impressive wins in recent memory.

The Orange, though, don't have much time to celebrate with Big East rival Cincinnati coming to town Monday.

Looking to extend its school-record home winning streak to 35, No. 6 Syracuse tries to avenge a postseason loss in its most recent meeting with the Bearcats.

The Orange (17-1, 5-0), whose only previous game against a Top 25 foe this season was a victory over then-No. 20 San Diego State in their season opener, won 70-68 at top-ranked Louisville on Saturday. Senior Brandon Triche had a team-high 23 points but it was Carter-Williams who played the role of hero, scoring 11 of the Orange's final 13 points.

After picking off a Peyton Siva pass with 26 seconds left and putting Syracuse up for good with a fast-break dunk, Carter-Williams took the ball away from Gorgui Dieng with six seconds remaining to seal the game. The sophomore standout finished with 16 points, seven assists and four steals, although he also had a career-worst eight turnovers.

"Michael was the reason we won the game, getting the dunk," Triche said. "I might have kept us in the game, but he's the reason we won the game getting the two steals. That's winning stuff."

Syracuse, which shot 49.0 percent against the Cardinals, has won its first five conference games for the third straight season. It opened 7-0 in the Big East last season.

"It was a tough game, Louisville's very good," coach Jim Boeheim said. "It was a great game, now we can forget about it and try to get ready for Cincinnati on Monday.

"They're as tough as anybody."

The Bearcats (16-3, 4-2) had dropped four straight in this series by an average of 15.8 points before stunning the second-ranked Orange 71-68 in last season's conference tournament semifinals. Sean Kilpatrick had 18 points in that game while Cashmere Wright scored 11 to go along with eight assists.

Wright, however, is uncertain to play Monday due to a sprained right knee suffered during Tuesday's 75-70 win at DePaul. The senior guard's average of 15.1 points ranks second on the team to Kilpatrick's 18.3.

"He's day-to-day," coach Mick Cronin said of Wright. "If he's out there and he's not 100 percent, I'm not letting him play."

Cincinnati barely was able to overcome Wright's absence Saturday, sneaking by No. 25 Marquette 71-69 in overtime. Kilpatrick led the way with a career-high 36 points, including seven of the team's eight in OT.

"Winning builds belief in your system and the things you try to preach to your team," said Cronin, whose team held the Golden Eagles to a season-low 32.3 percent shooting. "It builds credibility with what you are trying to preach in the locker room. But it's just one win.

"We have 12 left and try to win as many as you can. ... Quality wins all add up."

After winning at then-No. 24 Pittsburgh, Rutgers and DePaul, the Bearcats are looking to open 4-0 on the road in league play for the first time since joining the Big East in 2005.

While Cincinnati has won four of its last five road matchups against Top 25 opponents, the Bearcats have dropped their last three at Syracuse, including the last two by an average of 19.5 points.

"It's going to be tough going to the Dome, but we just have to keep playing the way we have been playing, and that's winning with defense and rebounding," Kilpatrick said.

"If we keep rebounding and defending ... then we will be all right."

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