Louisville Cardinals – Big East Era Ends With a Double

The Big East name will remain, but with a lot less star power as the big names of one of College Basketball’s best conferences will be blown all over the nation, and Louisville, winning the conference tournament while grabbing a piece of the regular season title, become the last to be crowned champions.

Obviously, it’s a real special night for the University of Louisville. The final minute of play, first thing I thought of is what an incredible group of guys I’m coaching. Then I thought how happy I was for my family, and then immediately I thought of Dave Gavitt and what he formed, and all of us in some way or another flourish because of Dave Gavitt.

A Freshman, Montrezl Harrell, was the surprising hero of a weird finish, as the Cardinals came back from a 16 point deficit to an incredible finish in the second half, eventually beating the rather disappointing Syracuse Orange (what’s new) 78-61, with Harrell scoring 20 points, averaging 5.2 all season.

Syracuse held a 13 point lead at half time which seemed to be growing in the second half, as they head to play in the ACC next season. They had a 45-29 lead with 15:50 to play. And then Louisville started playing the kind of full-court press that helped them reach the final four last season, and win 10 straight games this one.

Our press is pretty much like controlled chaos. We’re going to press. We’re just going to run and trap, run and trap, and Coach P is like, ‘No, you’ve got to do it in a smart way.’ For a minute there, we were running around the court with our head cut off and got a couple of steals. For us to really battle like that, it really shows a lot.

Peyton Siva, with 11 points, 8 assists and 4 steals, became just the second player in the history of the tournament (following Patrick Ewing) to repeat as the MVP in the Big East, just like the Cardinals are only the fourth school to repeat as Big East champions. Siva signaled the way with his defense, as Louisville, arguably the best team in the nation and a definite #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, scored 32 points off turnovers, 25 of them coming off 13 in the second half. Louisville averages 22.9 points per game off turnovers, the most among Big Six conference teams.

In the final 15:34, the Cardinals won 49-16. They allowed only 2 field goals from Syracuse, while forcing 12 turnovers off of them, almost as much as they had field goal attempts (13) during that stretch.

I think they’re the best pressing team that I’ve seen this year. It was probably the worst thing to happen to get up 15. If we hadn’t played well and we were up four or five, they probably wouldn’t have done that, but that’s what they had to do at that point to go after it, and that was exactly what I would have tried to do, and that’s what they did, and they’re good at it.

Winners of 10 consecutive games, Louisville allowed opponents 54.6 points on 36.4 percent shooting while forcing 17.7 turnovers, including 10.4 steals. If that’s not the best defense in the nation, proven in a tough conference, I don’t know what is.

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