Mar 16, 2013, 10:57 PM EST
NEW YORK, N.Y.– For a time it was almost too difficult to comprehend how a team that looked so out of sync in the first half of a conference title game could pull off something so remarkable in the final 20 minutes of a game with such implications and such story lines, at such a venue on such a night.
After trailing by 13 points at halftime, No. 4 Louisville came out of the gate in the second half on a 5-0 run that forced a Jim Boeheim timeout, part of a larger 27-3 run that stunned, shocked, and disoriented No. 19 Syracuse in a 78-61 Cardinal win Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
“I had to jump our guys pretty hard at halftime because…our defense wasn’t great because our offense was quick-shooting and we’re not a quick-shooting team,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “But to go out in the second half and score 56 points off good offense, then our defense came because of the good offense.”
Freshman Montrezl Harrell had his best game of the season in the biggest game of his young collegiate career with 20 points, seven rebounds, and an immeasurable amount of energy on both ends of the floor that fueled Louisville’s monster comeback.
Harrell provides a different kind of player on the interior for Louisville when compared to Chane Behanan, bringing more explosiveness getting to the basket and more length, according to Pitino.
“You never know in college basketball who is going to step up,” Pitino said. “Now, tonight [Harrell] takes over the backboard, takes over the game…that’s the beauty of college basketball.”
“I came in the game just ready and being prepared for whatever coach needed me to do,” said Harrell. “These guys looked for me and I just tried to finish for them.”
But for as many variables as there were that went into the making of the 2013 Big East tournament final between Syracuse and Louisville, the first half itself was rather simple. It had nothing to do with the complex monetary motives that push realignment or the politics of recruiting blue-chip prospects. Syracuse simply made shots at a 45 percent clip and Louisville at 26 percent.
But Louisville coach Rick Pitino dialed up the defensive pressure to begin the second half in a move that caught Syracuse off guard and allowed the Cardinals to make up ground when shots were not falling: by winning the turnover category. Louisville ended up +9 in turnover margin and outscored Syracuse 56-26 in the second half.
The ability to force turnovers, combined with a much more apparent effort to work for good shots on the offensive end made the difference. Center Gorgui Dieng hovered in the middle of the Syracuse zone at the top of the key and dished to open teammates when the defense collapsed, finishing with eight assists and just one turnover.
Louisville guard Peyton Siva won the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award for the second straight time. He becomes only the second player in Big East history to win the award twice, joining former Georgetown great Patrick Ewing, who won the award in 1984 and 1985. Siva had 11 points, eight assists, and just two turnovers in the win.
“In all honesty, I didn’t think I was going to be the MVP. I wasn’t really focused on it,” Siva said. “Syracuse has been my Kryptonite for these last couple years…Coach had the confidence to leave me in the game this time and I didn’t want to let him down.”
After the game, Pitino told the media that Villanova coach Jay Wright had texted him earlier in the day, telling him that “it was only fitting” that the final Big East game as we know it would feature Pitino vs. Boeheim. Amidst the elation of winning a conference title, Pitino thought about it in a way, too.
“In the final minute of play, the first thing i thought of was what an incredible group of guys I’m coaching,” Pitino said. “Then immediately I thought of [Big East founder] Dave Gavitt and what he formed and all of us in some way or another flourished because of Dave Gavitt.”
Boeheim was less poetic and sentimental about the end for the Big East, saying he had been thinking about the end of the conference as it currently is for two years. But there was something special in Madison Square Garden Saturday night. Something about a historic comeback to win a conference championship helped to push aside the fact that this league would be changed from here forward.
If just for one night it was that way, I doubt Pitino, Boeheim, and the rest would have wanted it any other way.
Dec 7, 2013, 11:00 AM EST
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 18 UCLA at Missouri (12:30 p.m., CBS) A matchup of 8-0 teams headlines Saturday’s improved slate of college basketball games thanks to the end of the college football regular season. The Bruins are 8-0 under new coach Steve Alford and have yet to face an opponent the caliber of Mizzou…
Dec 7, 2013, 4:02 AM EST
Last weekend, when John Calipari brought his team up to the Barclays Center to take on Providence, he made it a point to talk about how much he team has to learn defensively. In fact, in both the press conference he gave prior to the game and his postgame chat with reporters, Coach Cal used…
Dec 7, 2013, 2:36 AM EST
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Baylor 67, Kentucky 62 It didn’t have the atmosphere of a game that was one of the season’s biggest to date since it was played at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, but Baylor announced themselves to the country as a top team. They did it with Kenny Chery, a Junior College transfer in…
Dec 7, 2013, 1:58 AM EST
After graduation claimed do-it-all point guard Pierre Jackson from last year’s Baylor team, many wondered if Kenny Chery– a Junior College transfer from State Fair Community College in Missouri — could fill the void. Scott Drew was going to give Chery the keys to the car, but could he drive it? Chery answered that question in…
Dec 7, 2013, 12:17 AM EST
Credit Mike Montgomery and Cal for heading to southern California to play at UC Santa Barbara. It’s not too often that a program from a BCS conference travels to play at the gym of a mid-major team, but the Golden Bears did that tonight. Montgomery probably regrets it as Cal lost to UCSB, 72-65. While…
Dec 6, 2013, 11:19 PM EST
While some were no doubt irked that the Baylor vs. Kentucky game went into four overtimes — thereby causing the men’s game to begin roughly 80 minutes after its scheduled tip — the women’s game was a dandy. The 263 combined points eclipsed the previous record of 252 points. The two teams were neck and…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:49 PM EST
You know by now that every year at Taylor University they have their “Silent Night” game. On the Friday before final exams, the students gather in Odle Arena and the crowd remains dead silent until the tenth point is scored. Once Taylor reaches point number ten, pandemonium ensues. Afterwards, the crowd harmoniously sings “Silent Night.” Tonight…
Dec 6, 2013, 8:36 PM EST
The trying career of Allan Chaney has come to an end. After beginning at the University of Florida for his freshman year, then transferring to Virginia Tech where he never was cleared to play due to a case of viral mycarditis — an infection that results in inflammation of the heart – he finally ended up at…
Dec 6, 2013, 7:45 PM EST
Stanford senior guard Aaron Bright will be sidelined for the remainder of the season with a dislocated right shoulder he injured in practice last week. After averaging better than 30 minutes per game a season ago, Bright had been playing a smaller role on this year’s team coming off the bench and playing 19.3 minutes…
Dec 6, 2013, 6:51 PM EST
When St. Joseph’s and Villanova — two of the five schools making up Philadelphia’s “Big Five” — meet on the hardwood, the game is always a ‘can’t miss’ and atmosphere unparalleled. When the game is played at St. Joseph’s Hagan Arena, there may not be another gym in the country that provides the home team…
Dec 6, 2013, 4:07 PM EST
In two of Kansas’ three games at the Battle 4 Atlantis last weekend, freshman point guard Frank Mason played well. Overall he averaged 9.7 points and 2.0 assists per contest, reaching double figures in games against Wake Forest (13 points) and Villanova (12). With the recent run of play and his work in practice, head…
Dec 6, 2013, 3:18 PM EST
GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 3 Kentucky vs. No. 20 Baylor, 10:00 p.m. (ESPN) This isn’t a difficult choice, as the meeting between the Wildcats and Bears at the site of this season’s Final Four is the only contest matching ranked teams. And it’s a chance to make a statement nationally for Baylor, with sophomore…
Dec 6, 2013, 2:00 PM EST
In a new series here on College Basketball Talk, every Friday we’re going to have a discussion about some of the hot topics in college basketball. The inaugural installment focuses on the ACC, the now 15-team conference that some stated was the greatest conference ever assembled before a game had been played. Now that we’ve…
Dec 6, 2013, 1:11 PM EST
With two games remaining in the suspensions of guard Dominic Artis and forward Ben Carter, Oregon will see its depth improve in short order. And apparently the Ducks will add another player, as freshman forward Jordan Bell has qualified and is now able to join the team. Bell, who played at Long Beach (Calif.) Poly,…
Dec 6, 2013, 11:45 AM EST
Vanderbilt was able to hold off Marshall on Thursday night, beating the Thundering Herd 69-67 with Damian Jones and James Siakam leading the way with 15 points apiece. But the victory was a Pyrrhic one, as on Friday morning head coach Kevin Stallings announced that junior center Josh Henderson tore both the ACL and MCL…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:34 AM EST
During their three games in The Bahamas last weekend the Xavier Musketeers were shorthanded in the front court, as senior forward Erik Stenger was unable to participate due to an illness. The issues began shortly before the Musketeers left the States, as Stenger underwent medical testing (including bloodwork) after being “unusually lethargic” during practices. On…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:24 AM EST
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 3 Kentucky vs. No. 20 Baylor, Fri. 10:00 p.m. Braving the ice and sleet in Dallas, Kentucky will be squaring off with the Bears at the Jerry Dome in a game that will almost assuredly see more UK fans show up than Baylor fans. The irony is that this is…
Dec 6, 2013, 1:23 AM EST
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Providence 50, Rhode Island 49 I bet you didn’t realize the Ocean State had a hoops rivalry like this, did you? The Rams and the Friars did battle on Thursday night in a game that turned into a dogfight pretty quickly. How emotional was it? At one point, Ed Cooley and…
Dec 5, 2013, 11:15 PM EST
Seton Hall established a season high for points in a game on Thursday night in their 92-81 win over LIU Brooklyn, with Brian Oliver knocking down eight three-pointers and scoring a game-high 26 points to lead the way offensively. In total four Pirates scored in double figures, but the win may have come at a…
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