Skip to content

Montrezl Harrell shines, No. 4 Louisville wins Big East championship

Mar 16, 2013, 10:57 PM EDT

Montrezl Harrell AP

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.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Latest Posts
  1. Syracuse, NCAA Committee on Infractions meeting set for October 30-31

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:06 AM EDT

    Jim Boeheim AP

    Syracuse’s men’s basketball and football programs are under investigation, with the stakes being higher for Jim Boeheim’s program.

  2. Georgetown’s senior center looking to rebound from ‘embarrassing’ 2013-14 season

    Oct 23, 2014, 11:20 PM EDT

    Moses Ayegba, Joshua Smith Moses Ayegba, Joshua Smith

    Joshua Smith averaged 11.5 points per game before being ruled academically ineligible last season.

  3. Cameron Payne didn’t expect to fill Isaiah Canaan’s void at Murray State, but he did

    Oct 23, 2014, 10:49 PM EDT

    Cameron Payne (AP Photo) Cameron Payne (AP Photo)

    Cam Payne became the star of Murray State as a freshman, but he wouldn’t have gotten there if he had a back up. Why?

  4. VCU announces addition of 17-year old Morgan Vega to basketball program (VIDEO)

    Oct 23, 2014, 9:53 PM EDT

    Shaka Smart Shaka Smart

    The preseason favorites to win the Atlantic 10 added a new teammate Thursday.

  5. Junior guard decides to leave Charlotte program

    Oct 23, 2014, 8:03 PM EDT

    Demetrius Pollard, Shawn Lester Demetrius Pollard, Shawn Lester

    Shawn Lester averaged 11.9 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in the sixth man role last season.

  6. Iowa State guard to undergo surgery on both hips

    Oct 23, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    Hallice Cooke AP

    Hallice Cooke will have one hip operated on Monday, with the second surgery coming four weeks later.

  7. Three-star small forward becomes Oklahoma’s third 2015 commitment

    Oct 23, 2014, 5:41 PM EDT

    Lon Kruger AP

    Christian James joins Rashard Odomes and Akolda Manyang in Oklahoma’s 2015 haul.

  8. 2014-15 Season Preview: The Top 20 Perimeter Attacks

    Oct 23, 2014, 1:38 PM EDT

    Rondae Hollis-Jefferson AP

    Who are the top 20 perimeters in the country this season?

  9. UNC AD Bubba Cunningham joins Dan Patrick to discuss the academic scandal (VIDEO)

    Oct 23, 2014, 12:04 PM EDT

    (AP Photo) (AP Photo)

    This scandal will be a stain on North Carolina’s sports and academic programs for a long time.

  10. Throwback Thursday: Dahntay Jones dunks, does pushups on defender (VIDEO)

    Oct 23, 2014, 11:07 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 11.05.30 AM

    This is about as embarrassing as being POSTERIZED can get.

  11. Top 25 Countdown: No. 12 Wichita State

    Oct 23, 2014, 9:59 AM EDT

    Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet, Cleanthony Early

    The Shockers went to the Final Four in 2013 and undefeated in 2014. What is next for them?

  12. South Dakota State’s Cody Larson thrives despite return home amidst unmet expectations

    Oct 22, 2014, 10:46 PM EDT

    Cody Larson (AP Photo) Cody Larson (AP Photo)

    Cody Larson was South Dakotas Next Big Thing. He returned in infamy, but that has not stopped him from succeeding.

  13. Wisconsin raises more than $276,000 for cancer research

    Oct 22, 2014, 10:14 PM EDT

    Bo Ryan Bo Ryan

    Wisconsin held its third annual “Shooting Down Cancer” event Wednesday, with their goal being to #MakeBoPay.

  14. Two Memphis players to miss practice time for health reasons

    Oct 22, 2014, 9:13 PM EDT

    Austin Nichols AP

    Austin Nichols is the reigning American Athletic Conference ROY, and sophomore Avery Woodson is expected to compete for minutes in a crowded by inexperienced backcourt.

  15. Fresno State guard knocks down five straight half-court shots (VIDEO)

    Oct 22, 2014, 7:03 PM EDT

    Cezar Guerrero Cezar Guerrero

    Cezar Guerrero knocked down five straight from half-court during the team’s Red and White Hoops Night event Tuesday.

  16. Newcomer’s knee issue stretches Oregon’s thin rotation even further

    Oct 22, 2014, 6:43 PM EDT

    altman AP

    Oregon didn’t have much depth to begin with due to various personnel issues, so Michael Chandler’s lingering knee problem is a major concern.

  17. Bruce Pearl invades marketing class to promote ‘Pearl Jam’ (VIDEO)

    Oct 22, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    People don’t come more intense than Bruce Pearl.

  18. Three-star guard commits to SMU, reclassifies to 2016

    Oct 22, 2014, 4:25 PM EDT

    Larry Brown Larry Brown

    Given SMU’s depth on the perimeter, LaGerald Vick’s decision to move back in classes will help both parties in the future.