The Louisville Cardinals won the Big East Tournament, as they beat the Cincinnati Bearcats 50-44 on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in the championship game.
Louisville earned this after losing the championship game last year to Connecticut.
This is Louisville’s second Big East Tournament Championship in four years, winning it also in 2009.
Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino said of winning it all, “Well, I think you can see how excited our guys are and how much the tournament means to us. We wanted to come in here and play better basketball.”
The first half of this game could be described with one word: defense.
Nine minutes into the game, Cincinnati clinged to a 6-5 lead, as play was very sloppy.
It was not until 10:40 was left in the first half that Louisville’s Peyton Siva got a basket, a layup that started a 9-0 run for Louisville to give them a 14-6 lead with around eight minutes left.
Lousville led 19-12 with 5:04 left and no point was scored until Louisville’s Chane Behanan got a three-point play with 1:59 left. On the inbounds, there was a foul by Cincinnati’s JaQuon Parker to give Louisville the ball back, and they capitalized with a jumper from Kyle Kuric. This was essentially a 5-point possession for Louisville to give them a big 24-12 lead.
Cincinnati followed with a layup from Sean Kilpatrick to cut Louisville’s lead to 10 at the half at 24-14.
In the second half, Louisville started to dominate, opening up a 44-28 lead on a Chris Smith three-pointer with 8:28 remaining.
Cincinnati went on a 16-4 run over the next four minutes to cut the lead to 48-44 with 2:35 left. Cashmere Wright had nine points in that span for the Bearcats.
The score would stay that way until there was under a minute left, as Cincinnati had some tough possessions.
Russ Smith knocked in two free throws to ice the game for Louisville and put them ahead 50-44 with 28 seconds left, and that was how it ended.
Peyton Siva was named the Most Valuable Player of the Big East Tournament, and had 10 points in the championship game. He would have won the MVP in last year’s game if they had beaten Connecticut.
Chris Smith led Louisville with 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting, with three 3-pointers, and Kyle Kuric had 13 points, shooting 4-for-7 from the field.
Cincinnati was led by Cashmere Wright with 16 points, and JaQuon Parker had 10 points.
Pitino said of the game, “The game was very difficult, and we knew it would be, no matter how much we tried to push the pace. They know us as well as we know ourselves. We know them as well as they know themselves. Mick (Cronin, Cincinnati head coach) and I worked together, and we know the way each other think. We just – it’s very difficult to play two teams that know each other so well and hour and 20 minutes down the road.”
On the nature of the game, Pitino said, “It was going to be a defensive battle…We knew it was going to take defense to win this game. We thought it was going to take offense to beat Marquette, we thought it was going to take defense to win this one.”