LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim preferred to look on the bright side despite all his team's problems.
Senior leaders Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph struggled. The Orange missed shot after shot.
Only C.J. Fair had an answer against Louisville.
"Our defense was getting crucial stops when we needed them," Fair said. "And, defense wins games."
Fair scored 13 and No. 2 Syracuse scored the final six of the game to beat the 19th-ranked Cardinals 52-51 on Monday night, snapping a seven-game losing streak against Louisville in a game that reminded Boeheim of the NCAA Tournament.
"You're going to get in games like this in the tournament. I don't care who you are. You've got to be ready to be able to make those plays at the end of games," Boeheim said. "If they make a play, hit one shot, the end, we lose."
Syracuse (26-1, 13-1 Big East) has designs on a national championship and proved in this one it could grind out a possession-by-possession battle.
"You can either give the defenses credit or say it was a bad offensive game," Boeheim said. "We're going to look on the bright side and say it was a real defensive struggle."
Louisville (20-6, 8-5) rallied with a 15-2 run to take a 51-46 lead, but the Orange held the Cardinals scoreless over the final 3½ minutes and Fair hit the go-ahead layup with 2:11 left.
NO. 4 KANSAS 59, KANSAS ST. 53: Tyshawn Taylor had 20 points for the visiting Jayhawks (21-5, 11-2 Big 12), who won for the 36th time in their past 39 games against the state rival.
NO. 9 BAYLOR 79, IOWA ST. 64: Perry Jones III had 18 points for the host Bears (22-4, 9-4 Big 12) after scoring a combined nine last week when Baylor lost to Kansas and Missouri for the second time in four weeks.
MINNESOTA: Freshman shooting guard Andre Hollins, who sprained his right ankle after starting the first 10 games of the season, will likely move back into the starting lineup tonight against Ohio State.
SANTA CLARA: Guard Kevin Foster, the West Coast Conference's leading scorer, was suspended for the rest of the season after being charged with driving under the influence.
REFS REPRIMANDED: The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference issued one-game suspensions to the three officials who worked Sunday's Rider-Niagara game where a late clock error changed the outcome. The officials were listed on the box score as Rusty Cooper, Tony Crisp and Kenneth Clark.
AP POLL: Florida State dropped five spots to 20th. Notre Dame joined at No. 23, and Wichita State and Gonzaga came in tied for 24th. Creighton, Mississippi State and Harvard fell out. Kentucky remained No. 1.
NO. 2 UCONN 73, OKLAHOMA 55: Tiffany Hayes scored 23, Bria Hartley added 20 and the visiting Huskies (24-2) won their 12th straight game.
NO. 13 TENN. 91, NO. 7 KENTUCKY 54: Meighan Simmons scored a season-high 25 for the host Volunteers (18-7, 9-3 SEC), who shot 59 percent while holding the Wildcats (21-4, 10-2) to 33.3 percent.
MINNESOTA 64, NO. 16 NEBRASKA 58: Kionna Kellogg's basket with 1:01 left put the host Gophers ahead for good after the Cornhuskers (19-5, 8-4 Big Ten) had erased a 58-51 deficit.
KANSAS: Leading scorer Carolyn Davis will miss the rest of the season after tearing her ACL and dislocating her left knee Sunday.
AP POLL: Baylor remained the unanimous No. 1, and Miami stayed sixth. No. 23 BYU and No. 24 DePaul re-entered the rankings. Gonzaga and North Carolina fell out.