By JOHN KEKIS
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — With Cincinnati and Syracuse tied and the clock ticking down in the final minute, the Orange’s Jerami Grant drove the lane, and when his shot didn’t fall arms flailed all around the rim trying to corral the ball.
Somehow, it trickled in with 19.4 seconds left and No. 3 Syracuse escaped with a 57-55 victory over No. 21 Cincinnati on Monday, its second scintillating win in three days.
“We didn’t want to lose,” said Michael Carter-Williams, whose dagger 3-pointer from the top of the key tied it at 55-all with 80 seconds left. “None of us like losing. We wanted to do anything to win that game. We picked up our intensity and our energy. We should have found that in the first half.”
Syracuse had trailed by seven points with just over 5 minutes left, rallying for the victory in the final minute just as it had at then-No. 1 Louisville on Saturday in a 70-68 win. Carter-Williams had a go-ahead 3-pointer with 5:28 remaining, and his steal and slam dunk put the lid on that one as the Orange beat the Cardinals.
“Louisville was a tough, gritty game. We’re banged-up and sore,” Carter-Williams said. “To come back one day later and beat Cincinnati is a great feeling. We were a little fatigued. Now we get some rest.”
C.J. Fair was credited with the game-winning tip but admitted afterward he wasn’t sure who hit the ball.
“There were bodies down there and the ball just went in the hoop,” Fair said. “I just raised my hand. I thought I did it, but maybe I got help. I don’t know.”
The Orange outscored the Bearcats 13-4 over the final minutes and Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin wore a frown after his team’s third loss this season by two points or less.
“It was a batted ball in the air by three guys — two of their guys and one of our guys — that just happened to go in the basket,” Cronin said. “I’m not giving him a tip-in, not when our guys were trying to hit it the other way. Stuff happens. We didn’t get the stops defensively down the stretch. We got out-executed.”
Cincinnati’s Cashmere Wright missed a 3 from straight on with 2.9 seconds left, allowing the Orange to escape with their 35th straight win at home, the longest active streak in Division I.
Syracuse (18-1, 6-0 Big East), tied for third in the rankings with Kansas, is the only Big East team with an unblemished conference record and is 28-1 in regular-season play in the Big East the past two seasons, that lone loss coming at Notre Dame exactly one year ago Monday.
The Bearcats (16-4, 4-3) had won straight. They lost on the road for the first time in eight games.
Carter-Williams had 16 points and seven assists and Brandon Triche had 13 points for the Orange.
Wright, who sprained his right knee Tuesday in a win over DePaul and did not play in Cincinnati’s overtime victory against Marquette on Saturday, finished with five points on 2-for-13 shooting. He was 1 of 8 on 3s.
Sean Kilpatrick led Cincinnati with 21 points and JaQuon Parker had 11.
Syracuse’s James Southerland, tied for second on the team in scoring at 13.6 points per game, missed his third straight game because of an eligibility issue. He was in street clothes on the bench.
Cincinnati played the shot-clock game with its deliberate half-court approach and kept the game close despite a poor shooting performance in the opening half.
Trailing by just a basket at the break, the Bearcats started the second half with a 12-2 spurt keyed by consecutive 3-pointers from Parker when he was left unguarded in the right corner.
A high-arcing 3 by Kilpatrick was the fourth make in five tries from long range for the Bearcats and gave them a 36-29 lead with 13:46 left.
Carter-Williams responded with seven straight points, his 3 from the top of the key making it 36-all midway through the half.
Kilpatrick’s sixth 3-pointer of the game and a layup by Cheikh Mbodj completed an 11-4 spurt that gave the Bearcats a 49-42 lead with 5:44 left.
Triche, who helped boost Syracuse at Louisville with 23 points, then hit two straight jumpers and fed Grant for a slam dunk to draw the Orange within 54-50 with 3:17 left.
After hitting 5 of 7 from behind the arc against Louisville to keep Syracuse in the game in the first half on Saturday, Triche was 1 of 6 from long range against the Bearcats and wasn’t nearly so effective until the game was on the line.
“We’re going to need him to do that,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said of Triche. “He’s got to think that way. He’s proven he can do it. He’s got to take it to another level.”