LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Extra practice to improve free throw shooting yielded payoffs in other areas for Donovan Mitchell and Ray Spalding.
Mitchell made six 3-pointers for 25 points, Spalding added 18 points with 11 rebounds and No. 7 Louisville shot 57 percent to pull away for an 88-68 victory over Syracuse on Sunday.
Seeking a second-place tie with Florida State in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Cardinals rode a 14-4 run entering the break for a 15-point lead that grew to 23 early in the second half. That provided a buffer against shaky play Syracuse used to get within 11 but never closer as Louisville (23-6, 11-5) rebounded from its loss at No. 8 North Carolina .
"We came out with energy, which was a good sign," said Mitchell, who shot 9 of 16 from the field to lead four Cardinals in double figures.
"If we continue to play with the energy we played with in the second half, keep playing collectively and not let the press get to us, we'll be fine."
A revamped starting frontcourt featuring Spalding helped as the sophomore forward made 8 of 9 attempts to tie a career high in points while posting his second career double-double. He had just 23 points in his previous 10 games.
Louisville outscored Syracuse 38-22 in the paint in the process, success Mitchell attributed to a late-night workout with Spalding after returning from Carolina.
Deng Adel had 17 points and Quentin Snider 12 with six assists as Louisville completed a season sweep of Syracuse.
Tyus Battle had 20 points and Tyler Lydon added 17 for Syracuse (17-13, 9-8), which had sought a follow-up to its buzzer-beating win over No. 10 Duke . The Orange made just 20 of 56 from the field (36 percent).
"We got some good shots but just weren't making them today," said Battle, who went 7 of 17 from the field.
Syracuse: The Orange entered 3-2 against Top 10 schools — including Wednesday's nail-biter against the Blue Devils — but their tournament hopes had no room for error. Besides being outshot, they were outrebounded 39-28 and committed 10 of their 16 turnovers in the first half.
"(In the first half) we were too passive and didn't attack the defense very well," coach Jim Boeheim said. "The second half, we were better and more aggressive getting to the basket, but I thought Louisville played really well. They were very difficult inside for us."
Louisville: The Cardinals had plenty of room for improvement after losing at North Carolina and emerged more active against the Orange. Their new starting frontcourt also featuring 7-footer Anas Mahmoud and freshman V.J. King sealed off the middle to Syracuse, while the defense overall kept the Orange from getting hot outside.
"The most impressive thing about the win is we got off our feet and challenged every shot they took," coach Rick Pitino said. "They got some open ones but we are doing a very good job of challenging shots. ... We did some really, really good things with switching."
RAY'S BIG DAY
Spalding bounced back big from a four-rebound, two-point effort at North Carolina by being a force on both ends. His rebounds were just off his career best and he had two steals and a block in 28 minutes.
"Looking back on it and looking at my play so far, I don't think I've played very well," Spalding said in a postgame radio interview with WHAS-AM 840. "But just focusing on rebounding, that was key."
"That's the Ray Spalding we all know," Mitchell said. "His double-double is a testament to his hard work and gaining confidence."
Louisville's free throw shooting improved as it made 13 of 23 attempts after hitting 4 of 13 at North Carolina.
Louisville's win should be enough to keep the Cardinals in the Top 10.
Syracuse: Hosts Georgia Tech in Saturday's regular season finale. The Orange lost the previous meeting 71-65 on Feb. 19.
Louisville: Visits Wake Forest on Wednesday night before closing the regular season on Saturday against No. 21 Notre Dame.