No. 4 Louisville surges past Syracuse for Big East crown
New York, NY – The last game of the storied Big East Tournament for both Louisville and Syracuse was historic.
Montrezl Harrell posted 20 points and the fourth-ranked Cardinals dominated the second half to down the No. 19 Orange, 78-61, in the championship game Saturday night. Louisville rallied from a 16-point deficit in the second half to win the tourney for a second straight year and third time in the last five seasons.
James Southerland set a Big East tourney record for most 3-pointers made, but when the Syracuse senior forward picked up his fourth personal foul with under 16 minutes left, the game changed quickly.
The Orange were in front 45-29 at the time, but the Cardinals then embarked on an incredible 27-3 surge to take the lead.
"We were down 16 to Memphis on the road in a hostile crowd. This was not as hostile, but this was a road game tonight," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "I was trying to find red, and we found about 1,500, 2,000. But to play like this, I had all the confidence in the world."
Peyton Siva had 11 points and eight assists for Louisville (29-5), which ran its winning streak to 10 games and will likely gain not only a top seed for the NCAA Tournament, but maybe the No. 1 seed overall when the brackets are revealed Sunday evening. Luke Hancock and Russ Smith each had 10 points.
Siva was named MVP of the tournament for a second straight year. He joins Georgetown's Patrick Ewing (1984-85) as the only repeat tourney MVP.
"Just a tremendous game for this young man," Pitino said. "I told the assistant coach before, Peyton hadn't played well against Syracuse. I guarantee he plays well tonight. Very few young men in this business that I've coached is like him."
C.J. Fair had 21 points for the Orange (26-9), who will gain an at-large bid.
Now that the conference season is complete, the Big East will undergo radical changes. Seven Catholic schools - DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's and Villanova - will leave the conference. The new Big East will reportedly have 10 members for next season, those being the Catholic schools plus Butler, Xavier and Creighton.
Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame are heading to the ACC for next season. Louisville will join the ACC the year after.
The Orange went over 11 minutes without making a basket during a second-half stretch. Syracuse shot 6-of-18 in the final 20 minutes, while Louisville was 16-of-30.
"It's very difficult to go back and go against a pressing team in the last game in the fourth day," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "That's really hard to do. You have to give Louisville tremendous credit because they are, in my mind, one of the best pressing teams in the country and have been."
Southerland got his fourth foul shortly after nailing a 3-pointer from the left corner that put his team up 16 with 15:51 left.
The Orange went cold from that point, while the Cardinals were energized by the quick pace. They went ahead for the first time all night at 49-48 on a jam by Harrell after a steal by Hancock. Siva delivered a perfect bounce pass that resulted in the flush with 9:53 remaining.
Siva hit what seemed to be the back-breaking bucket, a double-clutch fadeaway from the lane with the shot clock about to expire. That expanded the margin to 62-51 with 5:17 left.
Syracuse finally broke its field goal drought with 1:49 left on a 3-pointer by Fair, but by that time it was 73-58.
The Orange scored the game's first eight points, and Southerland later broke Gerry McNamara's previous record of 16 3-pointers (2006) in one Big East tourney.
Syracuse held a 35-22 lead at the half, and everything seemed to be going the Orange's way. The Cardinals were 7-of-27 from the field in the opening half.
"We have a lot to work on, as you saw in the first half," Siva said. "We didn't really communicate well on the defensive end. We have a lot of things to improve on, but I think for the most part our guys really bought in the second half of playing defense and not allowing our offense to affect us."
Michael Carter-Williams had 11 points and Brandon Triche 10 for the Orange ... Southerland had 19 3-pointers for the tournament ... Carter-Williams had nine assists to finish the tournament with 36, finishing one shy of Jonny Flynn's tournament record of 37, set in 2009 ... Siva had four steals to break the career tournament record. Siva finished his career with 29 steals, breaking the old mark of 28, held by Pittsburgh's Brandin Knight since 2003.