by David Cassilo / @dcassilo

For only the second time all season No. 2 Syracuse tasted defeat as it fell to Cincinnati, 71-68, in the Big East semifinals. The Bearcats will face Louisville in the final on Saturday night.

Cincinnati jumped on the Orange early due to an 8-for-10 start from beyond the arc. Doing much of that damage was sophomore guard Sean Kilpatrick, who went 6-for-9 from deep and finished with 18 points.

The Bearcats never trailed in the game and led by as many as 17 points in the first half. Syracuse went on a furious rally in the second half, closing the gap to one in the final seconds, but it could never take the lead.

While sophomore guard Dion Waiters excelled again, scoring a career-high 28 points, the starting lineup faltered. Sophomore center Fab Melo was the only starter to crack double-digits in scoring.

Even with the loss, the Orange, who should still be locked in to a one-seed for the NCAA tournament, remain focused on winning a national title.

From The Post-Standard:

“Tonight we came up short,’’ said Waiters, “but it gives us a chance to go back to the drawing board and work that much more hard and get ready for the main goal at the end of the year.’’

As for the Bearcats, their only other game against Louisville this season was a 60-56 win on Feb. 23. Saturday’s final will mark the first time two former Conference USA teams will square off for the Big East title.