Big East: Syracuse to Face Louisville in Finals

    
March 14th, 2009
The prevailing thought in Madison Square Garden after West Virginia's Devin Ebanks hit a pair of free throws with 4.8 seconds remaining to tie the game was "here we go again".

Turns out all the freshman did was delay the inevitable.

Syracuse jumped out to the lead early in overtime, scoring the first six points of the extra session on their way to the 74-69 win and their fourteenth Big East Championship title game appearance. Eric Devendorf, who sealed the game with the block of a Truck Bryant three pointer followed by a breakaway layup, led the Orange with twenty-three points. Jonny Flynn, who played sixty-seven minutes in the six-overtime classic against UConn, played all forty-five and posted fifteen points and nine assists. Ebanks led the Mountaineers with twenty-two while Da'Sean Butler added twenty-one. What ultimately did in West Virginia was second-chances points, with the Orange scoring 21 points in that category. Syracuse had twenty-one offensive rebounds on the night, and they also got more from their reserves on a night in which many expected them to tire as the game wore on. Andy Rautins and Kristof Ongenaet combined for eighteen points, with Mountaineer reserves scoring just five points.

"We just didn't rebound out of the 1-3-1," noted head coach Bob Huggins in the postgame press conference. "They scored against it on second shots." Going to their point drop defense improved the rebounding but it still wasn't enough to derail the Orange. Next up for Syracuse is top-seed Louisville in a game that can be seen at 9 PM on ESPN.

#1 Louisville 69, #4 Villanova 55

In their fourth season as a member of the Big East, the Louisville Cardinals will make their first-ever appearance in the Big East Championship final. And with a number of results involving other teams in the running for a one seed breaking the way of the Cardinals, Rick Pitino's team could be well on its way to a seat on that top line. The difference was a 17-2 run to begin the second half, with the Cards sharing the ball on one end while pestering the Wildcats into numerous turnovers on the other.

"The key to our basketball team is passing," said Coach Pitino. "When we pass, we shoot great. We go one-on-one we shoot poorly." Louisville ended the first half with seven assists and eleven turnovers; they had eleven assists to just four turnovers in the second half. Earl Clark (17 points) and Jerry Smith (16 points) led the way for Louisville, who also did a better job of converting Villanova turnovers into points.

Villanova led that category 13-0 at the half but held a small 16-14 edge when the game ended. Corey Fisher and Dante Cunningham scored fourteen points apiece, but they scored just five combined points in the second half. Scottie Reynolds was just 1-for-6 from the field for two points, a victim of the Cards' relentless ball pressure. It was pretty obvious that Louisville took Coach Pitino's halftime advice to heart, applying it to take total control of the game.

"The good thing about these guys is when you say something, when they know you're right, they step up and admit what they were doing is wrong and they stepped up and played great team basketball," said Coach Pitino. And because of one more lesson learned, Louisville gets to play for a championship.

Team of the Day/On the "clock": Providence

Friday wasn't a good day for the bubblicious Friars, with teams such as Baylor, Temple, Duquesne and USC sitting one win away from an automatic NCAA Tournament berth. One bid thief will come from the A-10, but with other teams having the chance to do the same Keno Davis' team is in some serious trouble. The Big East looks more and more like a seven-bid league.

Quote of the Day: "That was definitely a great game, the best I've ever seen in my life. Everyone kept saying that we (had) to get some rest but we couldn't do that. We had to stay up and see the end of it." -Louisville guard Jerry Smith on Syracuse's six-overtime win over Connecticut