Rapid Reaction: Louisville 50, Cincinnati 44
March, 10, 2012
By Kieran Darcy | ESPN.com
Some quick thoughts from Louisville's 50-44 victory over Cincinnati in the Big East tournament final:
Overview: Louisville is your Big East tournament champion, for the second time in four years.
The No. 7-seeded Cardinals, who won the title in 2009 and lost in the championship game to UConn last year, defeated No. 4 seed Cincinnati on Saturday night -- the Cardinals' fourth win in four days here in New York.
Cincinnati (24-10), playing in its first-ever Big East championship game, falls short, but should still feel very confident heading into next week's NCAA tournament after defeating Georgetown and Syracuse the past two days here.
Louisville (26-9), after a lackluster finish to the regular season, with three losses in its final four games, now enters the Big Dance with a world of momentum.
Turning point: The first half of this game wasn't pretty, to say the least. Louisville led 24-14 at intermission. Against Syracuse on Friday night, Cincinnati shot 8-for-13 from 3-point range in the first half. Tonight? The Bearcats were 0-for-9.
Cincinnati had a chance to cut the deficit to four with 12:12 left in the game, but Dion Dixon missed a pair of free throws. Louisville swiped the momentum right back when Kyle Kuric was fouled by Sean Kilpatrick on a 3-point attempt -- Kuric made all three free throws to make it 37-28. That was the beginning of a 10-0 run to give the Cardinals their largest lead, 44-28 with 8:28 remaining.
Just when the Bearcats looked all but dead, they rallied down the home stretch. Cincinnati cut it to 48-44, and Jaquon Parker had two free throws with 28.7 seconds left to make it 48-46 -- but he missed both. Louisville closed it out from there.
Key player: Chris Smith had a game-high 15 points for Louisville, and Kuric added 13. But Peyton Siva was Louisville's most valuable player this week, and that continued on Saturday. Siva's numbers were a little more modest against Cincinnati -- 10 points, five assists, four rebounds -- but he was the co-pilot of this championship ship, along with coach Rick Pitino.
Cashmere Wright led the Bearcats with 16 points.
Key stat: Cincinnati has been a poor free throw-shooting team this season, and it was costly in a big way tonight. The Bearcats made just 1 of 7 attempts, including those misses at crucial times mentioned above.
Miscellaneous: This is the first time in Big East tournament history that the championship game did not feature at least one founding member. The times, they are a-changin'. ... This was the fourth time in the past seven years that a team seeded No. 7 or lower has won the event.
What's next: Selection Sunday -- both these teams will hear their names called tomorrow.