Mar 16, 2013, 10:57 PM EDT
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.
Aug 19, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT
Memphis was 2-2 in Canada.
Aug 19, 2014, 9:55 PM EDT
Ray Kasongo was denied admission from Oregon on July 30, reopening his recruitment.
Aug 19, 2014, 8:10 PM EDT
This new court design is interesting to say the least.
Aug 19, 2014, 7:59 PM EDT
Take a look at what tournaments the Shockers will appear in over the next few years.
Aug 19, 2014, 6:07 PM EDT
Jimmy Whitt is ranked just outside the top 50 in the Class of 2015.
Aug 19, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT
Stephen Zimmerman averaged 17.5 points, 11.5 boards and 2.2 blocks per game in four games at the Nike Global Challenge.
Aug 19, 2014, 3:54 PM EDT
Nicholls State may have a large, orange-clad fan base these days.
Aug 19, 2014, 3:04 PM EDT
It’s how they played through their six games in the Bahamas.
Aug 19, 2014, 1:40 PM EDT
Shaka Smart brings in a perfect piece and that was a priority recruit.
Aug 19, 2014, 12:33 PM EDT
It looks like everyone had a great time.
Aug 19, 2014, 11:09 AM EDT
Jason Holmes is a pro athlete in a sport he never heard of.
Aug 19, 2014, 10:29 AM EDT
Will these ever end?
Aug 18, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT
Christian James is one of the better dunkers in the 2015 class.
Aug 18, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT
A former Vanderbilt player is hoping to release a book discussing the dirtier side of college basketball.
Aug 18, 2014, 8:25 PM EDT
Ohio State has some interesting games in the non-conference slate.
Aug 18, 2014, 7:25 PM EDT
Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery defended some of his player’s recent offseason troubles.
Aug 18, 2014, 6:24 PM EDT
Some more disturbing allegations are levied against a 2014 NCAA Tournament team.
Aug 18, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
This week’s CBT Recruiting Roundup features some thoughts on Noah Dickerson to Florida and a couple of 2015 guards cutting school lists.
Aug 18, 2014, 3:42 PM EDT
The two programs haven’t played on one another’s home court in two decades.
Aug 18, 2014, 2:24 PM EDT
Nebraska has added a player in the Class of 2017 and a top 50 recruit from 2012 in the span of a few hours.
- John Calipari on whether Kentucky will use platoons this season: ‘I think so’ 2
- College Basketball Talk’s Recruiting Roundup 1
- Austin Hatch, who twice survived plane crashes, plays for Michigan 0
- Kentucky loses final game of Bahamas tour, Jack Martinez hits game-winner for Dominican Republic (VIDEO) 0
- Four-star shooting guard verbally commits to UCLA 0
- USA Basketball U17 team wins gold in the FIBA World Championships 0
- Larry Brown on Emmanuel Mudiay going pro: ‘I thought it was a bad decision’ 4
- Michigan State’s Tom Izzo takes the #icebucketchallenge (VIDEO) (5)
- Larry Brown on Emmanuel Mudiay going pro: ‘I thought it was a bad decision’ (4)
- Former Vanderbilt player releasing book exposing sex, drugs and parties in college basketball (4)
- Watch Stephen Curry put 40 on Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament (VIDEO) (3)
- Five-star power forward Elijah Thomas sets five official visits (3)