Score: No. 4 Louisville 78, No. 19 Syracuse 61
Star(s):Louisville:Montrezl Harrell 20 Pts (his all-time high), 7 Reb. Syracuse:C.J. Fair 21 Pts, 7 Reb.
Story: Simply put, there wasn't enough time for fans to prepare for the magnitude of tonight's matchup. The last Big East Championship was being played by two teams full of respect for each other - from the coaches' long-standing history to the short-standing regular season, where each team had beaten the other once.
Syracuse started the game flawlessly. Two quick three's flew past the Louisville defense, one of those setting a Big East Tournament record - Southerland with his 17th of the week (Gerry McNamara was the previous record-holder). Syracuse was really fired up after that on both ends of the court, and Michael Carter-Williams had it going early. He found open spots during drives, and his teammates, especially C.J. Fair, just could not miss. But Louisville could. By the time of the first media timeout, U of L was still scoreless.
The Cardinals finally got on the board thanks to Montrezl Harrell, a player who would deserve much more thanks by the time the game was over. After making two free throws, a 15-foot jumper and a dunk, he was the Louisville offense in the first half. Other than him, we saw bad three shooting (25%), poor passes to inside, spotty reception when the passes made it to the inside, and very, very smart corner double-teaming from Syracuse. The half ended 35-22.
The beginning of the second half seemed like it was going to be just as painful for Louisville. Syracuse immediately made two three's - both from beautiful MCW dish-outs. But before Southerland could make the deficit even larger, he got his fourth foul called, and had to head to the bench. And with putting the Southerland fire out comes Louisville firing up. Russ Smith hit a three, Hancock shot and made two FTs, Stephan Van Treese had a nice put back and suddenly, the Cards had gotten a 10-0 run and were within six.
Harrell unleashed the beast. A made FT would get U of L to the closest it had been since it was 22-18 in the first half. He was everywhere, offensively and defensively, giving the push that his team needed. Louisville had made an unbelievable 27-3 run by the time seven minutes remained. As if that wasn't enough, Triche, Southerland and MCW were in serious foul trouble. MCW received his fourth on a flagrant to Luke Hancock, and with 1:36 remaining, the point guard fouled out.
Harrell, the star of the game, finished it off with a jump shot. And just like that, Louisville won its third consecutive Big East Championship, Peyton Siva got yet another Big East MVP award, and the Cardinals ended their campaign for a number one overall seed on Sunday with a winning debate.
It's been real, Big East.