Louisville Cardinals knock off Syracuse Orange for Big East crown

Syracuse wilted under pressure

A complete and total meltdown is the easiest way to describe what happened on Saturday night in the Big East Tournament championship game at Madison Square Garden in New York. Holding a 16-point lead, #19 Syracuse fell apart as #4 Louisville roared back behind their full court press to rout the Orange, 78-61. The Cardinals (29-5) leapt out of the hole in large part by forcing 20 turnovers by SU (26-9), which they converted into 32 points. A dozen of those turnovers came in the game’s final 16 minutes, which included a stretch of over 11 minutes where Syracuse did not register a field goal, in large part due to those miscues.

Syracuse wilted under pressure

» Related: Syracuse optimistic despite loss

The Orange started the game on the right foot, jumping out to an 8-0 lead before the game was four minutes old. Louisville scored five points to get going, but SU rang up a 7-2 run for a 15-7 lead before eight minutes had elapsed. The Cardinals whittled the lead down to two shortly after the midpoint of the half, but the Syracuse defense locked in on them, keying a 14-3 outburst.

The Orange suffocated Louisville for over nine minutes, permitting only one basket until a score right before the halftime horn. Michael Carter-Williams was a driving force in the stretch, scoring nine consecutive points to close the run and put SU on top, 31-18, with 2:30 on the clock. Louisville’s bucket before the half helped them stay within that margin at 35-22.

The Orange drew first blood in the second half to stretch the lead out to 15, but the Cardinals struck back to clip the margin to ten points on a pair of occasions. Consecutive treys for SU pushed the lead to 45-29 just over four minutes into the session, forcing a Louisville time out. The time out and deployment of the full-court press turned the game for the Cards, as they scored the game’s next ten points to get within a half dozen.

A basket pushed the Syracuse lead out to 47-39 with just under 13 minutes to play. It was the last field goal for the Orange until there were under two minutes left and the game was a lost cause. In that span, Louisville simply blew the doors off Syracuse, outscoring them 34-8 in that time to take a 73-55 stranglehold on the game with two minutes to play. The Orange limped to the final horn from there, then off the court.

» Related: Syracuse couldn’t handle Louisville’s pressure

C.J. Fair led the way for SU with another of his customary efficient scoring efforts. Fair needed only ten field goal attempts to score a game-high 21 points, in large part due to connecting on 4-of-5 three-pointers. Michael Carter-Williams added 11 points and nine assists, while Brandon Triche had ten points and James Southerland nine, the latter doing his work in the form of a trio of threes. As a result, Southerland holds the record for most three-point field goals in the Big East Tournament with 19.

Southerland and Triche were both named to the All-Tournament Team.

The Orange men’s team now awaits their destination in the NCAA Tournament, which will be announced on Sunday. Also, their counterparts on the women’s team will find out their NCAA Tournament status on Monday.

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About Jim Stechschulte 894 Articles
A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. He currently resides in Syracuse.