Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

Louisville looks like a national title contender in Big East finale

March 17, 2013 Columns No Comments

NEW YORK – The box score tells you that Louisville is leaving New York as the champions of the last Big East Tournament as we know it by virtue of a 78-61 win over Syracuse. But the box score only tells part of the story, as is so often the case. Among the things it doesn’t tell is why this Cardinal team might not be done winning championships.

Down 45-29 just over four minutes into the second half, Louisville had to do something. Syracuse was clicking on all cylinders, continuing their offensive renaissance in New York, and the Cardinals couldn’t do anything against the zone. Who did they turn to for help? Montrezl Harrell, of course.

What, you were expecting Pervis Ellison to walk through that door?

“Tonight was his night,” said senior guard Peyton Siva, who joined Patrick Ewing as the only two-time Most Outstanding Performer in Big East Tournament history. “I’ve never played particularly well against Syracuse, I’ve never really shot well. Tonight I tried to do something different and attack and get in the lane and get him the ball, and he finished tall. It’s real easy for me and Gorgui (Dieng) and the rest of the team to really get in our press when he’s making shots. He really played like a man tonight.”

Harrell was hardly alone in Louisville turning around the Big East championship game, but the freshman forward was instrumental as the Cardinals took over the game in the second half to beat Syracuse going away and take their third Big East title in five years. Harrell led Louisville with 20 points in 24 minutes off the bench and added seven rebounds, with 14 of those points coming in the second half. Louisville not only showed that they can turn a game right around with their press, but just how much depth they have, both of which could propel them at least to the Final Four.

In all, Louisville’s bench accounted for 41 of their 78 points on the evening, to go along with 16 of their 39 rebounds. Their reserves shot a combined 12-22 from the field. Siva has often struggled shooting against Syracuse, but this time he attacked and handed out eight assists with just two turnovers. Dieng wasn’t far from a triple-double with nine points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Russ Smith had 10 points on 2-8 shooting.

The bench turned the game around and showed how deep they are.

“Kevin Ware gave us a big lift defensively and offensively in a limited amount of time,” said head coach Rick Pitino. “It is a very deep team, and one where I’m confident in playing anybody.”

Added Siva: “We feel that we lose nothing when they come into the game. They’re the reason why we won the game tonight.”

It looked like Syracuse was well on their way for the first 24 minutes. They led 35-22 at the half, holding the Cardinals to 25.9 percent shooting. The Cardinals had something to do with that, as Pitino didn’t like the quick shots they took on a number of possessions. Then, after Syracuse reached the aforementioned 45-29 lead, Louisville finally woke up, running off ten unanswered points to make it a ballgame. That was only the beginning, though, as it was the start of a 27-3 run that saw Louisville take the game over. Eventually they outscored the Orange 44-10 following that point to go from 16 down to 16 up.

Louisville forced 20 turnovers and scored 32 points off them. While they certainly forced plenty, they also took advantage of Syracuse mishandling some passes right into their hands. There were several times a pass was a little off the mark, or right there and an Orange player couldn’t hang on, and a Cardinal like Siva was there to pounce and get them off and running.

The way Louisville turned the game around, largely with its bench, is only part of the story. It also didn’t take this game for the Cardinals to realize that just like they can beat anyone, they can also lose to anyone. They were down by 16 and had to turn the game around, and a lot of that deficit was of their doing, with all due credit to Syracuse.

“I think today, we might have been maybe too scared to lose,” said Smith. “We wanted to do everything right. Sometimes we’ve just got to go out there and play, and we did a great job of that in the second half when we picked our intensity up.”

Pitino said one of the big virtues of this team is that they are a humble group. They don’t have the kind of egos some of his past teams have had, and while they aren’t as talented, it’s a low-maintenance group, much as some of Smith’s decisions on the court can drive him crazy.

“I think humility is an incredible virtue to have to win,” said Pitino. “I told them before the year, last year I said in order for you to go, you have to stay focused with all your injuries. This year, only a lack of humility can stop you. They were very humble, and they’re led by Gorgui and Luke and Peyton, who are very humble people. So I think humility plays a big role in this for us.”

Louisville has a chance to be the top overall seed when the field is announced. Pitino and his players were asked if they think they deserve it, and to a man they felt it doesn’t matter. This team knows they can beat anyone and they can lose to anyone, which is a big part of why they have made it this far. They know they will play nothing but good teams in the NCAA Tournament. That, as well as how deep they are, was in evidence on Saturday night.

Comment on this Article:

Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Coaching Changes

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 6, 2018

April 6, 2018 by

In our first podcast in the postseason, we look back one more time on the NCAA Tournament, which was just what we needed at this time. We also look at the NIT, CBI and CIT, as well as important transactions with players leaving early for the NBA Draft and coaching changes.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 3, 2018

April 3, 2018 by

The 2018 national championship is in the books, and with it another season of college basketball. We break down the national championship game and some of its implications to wrap up the season.

College Basketball Tonight – April 1, 2018

April 2, 2018 by

Welcome to our Final Four edition of College Basketball Tonight. In this edition, we look ahead to Monday’s national championship game, and bring on two guests – long-time Villanova radio play-by-play broadcaster Ryan Fannon and Radford head coach Mike Jones – to get their thoughts and insights on the game.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 1, 2018

April 1, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we break d own the national semifinals, where one game went back and forth while the other was never really a ballgame thanks to an impressive performance for the ages by the winning team.

College Basketball Tonight – March 26, 2018

March 27, 2018 by

With the Final Four all set, we look back on the regional finals and ahead to the final games of the season. We are joined along the way by veteran writer Ken Davis and Towson head coach Pat Skerry for their insights as well.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Lincoln captures Hamilton Park title

August 15, 2017 by

For the first time, a public school won the Hamilton Park Summer League, and they were led by a big effort from a junior point guard in the title game.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Boston Shootout

June 12, 2017 by

Some news and notes coming from the second and final day of action at the 2017 Boston Shootout, where the host program provided plenty of talent, but so did a program that produced a team that beat them.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.