My my, how halftime can turn a game around.
The 2013 Big East tournament championship came down to No. 19 Syracuse and No. 4 Louisville on Saturday night, in a game that was a tale of two halves for both teams. After being up by as much as 16, the Orange went without a field goal for more than 11 minutes in the second half and ended up being blown out by the Cardinals, 78-61.
Syracuse came out hot in the first half, highlighted by some early three-pointers from James Southerland and highlight plays by freshman phenom Michael Carter-Williams.
Jim Boeheim's team took a 13-point lead into the break, but something happened in the Rick Pitino locker room that changed the course of this game.
Peyton Siva and the Cardinals sped up the pace of the game, switched defenses at will and reminded us why they will likely be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament by completely dominating the Orange in the second half.
Turnovers and stiff defense led to Louisville getting transition baskets, which forced Syracuse to disregard normal rules for its 2-3 zone and give up 56 points in the second half en route to Louisville's second consecutive Big East tournament championship and its third in the last five years.
Syracuse had 19 turnovers and looked disoriented while getting outscored by 30 in the second half.
C.J. Fair had 21 points to lead the Orange, while Montrezl Harrell had 20 to pace the Cardinals. Siva added 11 points, eight assists and four steals while being named the tournament's MVP—his second consecutive one, at that.
In what was the last Big East game at Madison Square Garden with the current format of teams, Syracuse and Louisville (two of the conference's biggest draws) made sure to close out this era of college basketball with a bang.
Jason McIntyre of Big Lead Sports had a bold prediction for the NCAA tournament with this tweet, amazed at the big comeback by the Cards:
Your 2013 NCAA Tourney champs storm back from down 16 to take the lead on Syracuse. #Louisville Fantastic game on ESPN— Jason McIntyre (@TheBigLead) March 17, 2013
ESPN's official account echoed that sentiment:
Louisville would like to be penned into your future bracket in permanent marker.— ESPN (@espn) March 17, 2013
Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune had a very colorful description of Louisville's defense in the second half—a warning for the team's opponents in March Madness:
While Siva's NBA prospects aren't what we're worried about going into March, Alan Hahn is thinking ahead to seeing him at the next level in this building:
So many reasons to accept that Peyton Siva just isn’t an NBA-quality PG (size, for one), but that kids heart and speed are hard to ignore.— Alan Hahn (@alanhahn) March 17, 2013
ESPN's Matthew Berry posted this tweet late in the game when things were all but over—sentiments that Orange fans everywhere are likely feeling at this moment:
Very tough game to watch as a Syracuse fan. Sloppy play, mental mistakes & refs not helping. Flagrant on MCW a joke. This tm drives me crazy— Matthew Berry (@MatthewBerryTMR) March 17, 2013
Brandon Triche, Syracuse: F
Triche is a senior, and, as such, Boeheim needs more from his starting guard.
He was 3-of-12 from the floor in his final college game at MSG and didn't provide any kind of spark for the Orange—but his seven turnovers provided the spark that Louisville needed to bust this game wide open.
Simply put, Syracuse expects more from a guy who has been into battle with names like Scoop Jardine, Wesley Johnson and Rick Jackson. If this is the guy who's going to show up for the NCAA tournament, don't put the Orange through very far in your tournament bracket this year.
Peyton Siva, Louisville: A-
What can we say about this kid that hasn't already been said and will be said in the next three weeks?
Siva paced the Cardinals with his play despite a rough shooting night, and his pesky defense helped create the turnovers that doomed the Orange by the end of the night.
He earned MVP honors with his play in New York, and there's a good chance he could take home MVP honors in a March tournament coming up in the next few days.
James Southerland, Syracuse: C
How far will Syracuse go in March?
After setting a Big East tournament record for most threes made in a game without a miss and nailing a ton over the course of his time in New York this week, Southerland was average on Saturday night.
He got the Orange off to a fast start with two quick threes that opened up the door for the 13-point halftime lead, but he finished with just nine points and contributed four turnovers to the 19 that doomed Syracuse.
Like it or not, 'Cuse expects more from this guy. He proved to be worthy of that expectation in the first three rounds of the tournament but failed to carry that mantle on Saturday.
Montrezl Harrell, Louisville: A+
Energy off the bench is often a lost art in basketball, but Harrell captured it and used it to spur the second-half run that ended up deciding this game.
He was dunking on defenders in the zone, making plays (seven rebounds, one block) on the defensive end and otherwise doing exactly what Louisville needed him to do on a night when Siva and Russ Smith combined to shoot 5-of-16 from the field.
Tip of the cap to you, sir Harrell. Without your energy and effort against the Syracuse zone, we might be talking about the Orange as a contender for the NCAA tournament title and not the Cardinals.