|Farewell MSG & Big East Tournament. We'll always have the memories...|
Gravy. That's all this game was supposed to be, after Friday night's overtime win over Georgetown. But for Syracuse, gravy quickly became caviar after jumping out to a huge lead against the Louisville Cardinals in the Big East Tournament Championship game on Saturday night. Syracuse shot 45% in the first half, including 6-12 from three, and carried a commanding 35-22 lead into the locker room. Louisville, who shot 26% and a mere 2-8 from three, it seemed just didn't have what it would take to mount a comeback, even if they regrouped. Well, that couldn't be further from the truth. The Cardinals remembered how to play basketball, shot 53% in the second half, and totally shut down any attempt at Syracuse running an offense. Outscoring Syracuse 56-26 in the second half, Louisville becomes the Big East Tournament Champions, winning 78-61.
- CJ Fair was the player of the game for the Orange, and its leading scorer, with 21 points on 7-10 shooting, 4-5 from three, and seven rebounds. He also added a block and two steals in 38 minutes of play.
- Michael Carter-Williams was an assist short of a double double, with eleven points and nine assists, and also grabbed five rebounds. However, on the negative side, MCW turned over the ball four times, and was a disappointing 2-9 from the free throw line. Many of these free throw attempts were in the second half as the Syracuse offense was stagnant and Louisville was on a ridiculous run. Missing the front end of 1-and-1s just doesn't bode well in making a comeback.
- Brandon Triche rounds out the double digit scoring for Syracuse, with 10 points on a poor 3-12 shooting. Brandon committed seven turnovers and had gone back to the Brandon we were seeing at the end of the regular season.
- Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Keita again shared time, with the lion share going to BMK. Ten points, nine rebounds, and five blocks between the two of them.
- Due to poor guard play and James Southerland getting in foul trouble, Trevor Cooney and Jerami Grant saw more playing time than they had been used to seeing lately. Unfortunately their 26 combined minutes only translated to one rebound, one steal, and zero points. These two guys were asked to step up when their teammates couldn't play, and just didn't get the job done.
- A few notable stats: Louisville had the advantage in points off turnovers 32-11; in second chance points 22-14; and in bench points, 41-8.
- It was easily the worst second-half collapse in recent memory for Syracuse, possibly in the 14 years I've actively been following the team.
If you're like me, you weren't in the best of moods around 11pm Saturday night. But why, since this game was gravy? Syracuse beat Georgetown on Friday, that's what we wanted! Well, you put that behind yourself, and face what you have that day; and Saturday, Syracuse faced Louisville. It's a game that Syracuse could have won. Hell, I picked Syracuse to win by 15! And I was looking like an MF-ing genius at halftime! So we all rode the emotional roller coaster of Syracuse could win this game, to Syracuse should win this game, to WTF IS HAPPENING TO SYRACUSE?!? It's certainly the disappointment after halftime that led to the disappointment on the final result, not necessarily the final result itself.
You can blame it on playing a fourth game in four days (including an overtime the night before), you can blame it on complacency, and you can blame it on the fact that Louisville is just really good. At least we have the satisfaction of knowing that Louisville went on to be the #1 overall seed in this year's NCAA bracket. They're certainly a force to be reckoned with, whoever faces them.
And so we say goodbye to the Big East, goodbye to arguably the best annual conference tournament basketball ever sees, goodbye to postseason games in Madison Square Garden, and goodbye to a wonderful era in the annals of Syracuse Basketball history. We all have wonderful Big East memories, and will look forward to making many great, new memories in the Atlantic Coast Conference.