Saturday, March 16, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Louisville 78, Syracuse 61
By Kieran Darcy
NEW YORK -- Reaction from Louisville's 78-61 victory over Syracuse in the Big East tournament title game.
What it means: The Big East went out with a bang.
In the final game before the conference splinters, Louisville made a stunning comeback to defeat Syracuse and win the Big East tournament for the second year in a row.
The Cardinals (29-5, 14-4), the regular season co-champions along with Georgetown and Marquette, have won 10 games in a row. Louisville is now a virtual lock to receive a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and ESPN.com bracketologist Joe Lunardi predicts the Cardinals will be the No. 1 overall seed in the entire field.
The Orange (26-9, 11-7), who had lost four of five to end the regular season, won three games here in New York, but this will be a tough one to get over. Syracuse was projected to be a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament by Lunardi prior to the championship game.
The turning point: Syracuse took control of this game early. C.J. Fair and James Southerland opened the game with 3-pointers, and the Orange went in front 8-0. Louisville closed to within two, 17-15, on a pair of Peyton Siva free throws. But the Orange outscored the Cardinals 18-7 the rest of the first half. Fair hit another trey with 50 seconds remaining and Siva scored in the closing seconds to make it 35-22 at intermission.
Syracuse took its largest lead of the game, 45-29, on another Southerland trey with 15:51 remaining. Seventeen seconds later, Southerland headed to the bench after picking up his fourth foul. The game completely turned from there. Louisville scored 10 straight points to get back in it and just kept on coming, even after Southerland returned. The Orange completely melted under the Cardinals' swarming pressure defense, and they were terrible from the foul line. Syracuse went more than 11 minutes without a field goal, and Louisville outscored them 56-26 in the second half.
Star watch: Freshman forward Montrezl Harrell, who was averaging just 5.2 points in 16.3 minutes per game, poured in a game-high 20 points -- 14 of them coming in the second half. He also had seven rebounds. Siva added 11 points and eight assists, and Russ Smith chipped in 10. Gorgui Dieng had a near triple-double -- 9 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists.
Fair, after a woeful 3-for-16 shooting night in the semifinals, scored a game-high 21 points for Syracuse, shooting 7-for-10. Michael Carter-Williams had 11 points and nine assists. Southerland finished with nine points, on three treys, and set a new Big East tournament record with 19 made 3-pointers.
Number crunch: Syracuse shot 12-for-26 from the foul line -- awful. And the Orange committed 20 turnovers, 13 of them coming in the second half. Louisville outscored Syracuse on points off turnovers, 32-11.
What's next: Selection Sunday, and the NCAA tournament.