Louisville’s stunning turnaround vs. Syracuse
by Eric Prisbell, USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK — The feeling of finality washed through Madison Square Garden tonight, creating the perfect backdrop for Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, the coach who has been with the Big East from its inception, to close out the last Big East tournament as we know it with his sixth championship, a departing nod to tradition.
That narrative played out for a little more than a half, as Syracuse built a 16-point lead largely with hot outside shooting. And then Louisville hit the ignition button and unleashed its full arsenal of weapons, making a compelling case why it deserves the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
Louisville executed a stunning turnaround in rallying to blow out Syracuse, 78-61, and will enter the NCAA tournament with as good a chance as any team during this volatile season to win the national championship.
Syracuse’s outstanding three-point shooter James Southerland gave the Orange a 16-point advantage a little more than four minutes into the second half. But then Louisville’s tenacious, unrelenting defense changed the game’s tenor, and in a hurry.
What came next was a flurry of forced turnovers, dunks and assorted momentum-shifting plays. Coach Rick Pitino’s full-court pressure helped the Cardinals force 10 turnovers in the first 13 minutes of the second half.
Midway through the half, that 16-point advantage was gone. A few minutes later, Louisville’s Peyton Siva hooked up with Kevin Ware on an alley-oop dunk. Louisville’s 29-4 run seized control of the game and ruined Boeheim’s farewell story line in a Big East final that will be long savored by basketball enthusiasts.
“I love New York!” Louisville’s Peyton Siva hollered during Louisville’s on-court celebration.
In a few years — Syracuse joins the ACC next season, Louisville the year after that – these school basketball powers may collide again in a conference tournament final, perhaps in Greensboro or another locale. But it won’t have the same flavor it did Saturday night, with these two iconic coaches under this conference banner and all the memories generated by the sight of both on this stage.
The relationship between Boeheim and Pitino dates back to 1976, with that memorable story of when … [For more on Louisville's stunning turnaround finishes Syracuse for Big East tourney title, click here.]