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Big East Tournament Championship Game

Big East Tournament Championship Game

(2) Louisville 78 (5) Syracuse 61

This matchup was set up to be a historic game for the Big East Conference because of the impending departures of these two programs to the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Orange after this season and the Cardinals after next season in the league that currently has no name. Once you add this kind of feeling to a game that already features two schools of such quality, you’re sure to see a game to remember.

Louisville will remember this game with great fondness. Syracuse will try to forget it.

Once the game clock started to tick down in the first half, this game did not disappoint. Syracuse got off to the quicker start on the the floor, using its long-range shooting to accomplish it. James Southerland broke the all-time record for three-pointers made in a Big East Tournament as part of the Orange’s early surge. Louisville, of course, was not to be written off just because it got off to a bad start on offense. The Cardinals used their tenacious defense to get back into this fight, bringing the score close by about halfway though the first half. As the half was winding down, though, it was the superior shooting of the Orange that was controlling the scoreboard. By the time the game clock read all zeros at halftime, it was 35-22 in favor of Syracuse.

In the starting moments of the second half, things looked like they were going to go Louisville’s way, but then the coach of the Orange, Jim Boeheim, smartly took an early timeout to prepare his team for the high-pressure defense of the Cardinals. Syracuse came back out with the right look to get the job done, because between that early team timeout and the first media timeout, the Orange jacked the score back up, leaving it 45-29 with just under 16 minutes left. Then, however, Southerland went to the bench with his fourth foul, and the momentum began to shift.

This game being far from over, the Cardinals then scored the next ten points which forced Syracuse to call another timeout to recompose itself again. Once more, it seemed to work, settling the game into a back-and-forth style where the score changed but the Orange’s lead had stayed the same. Then this matchup took on a whole new look. Louisville completely took over all of the momentum, powering and harassing its way though a 27-3 run to take control of this game. Syracuse just looked lost on the court, and all of the earlier timeouts by the Orange left them with only one with more than eight minutes still to go. They had to just figure out how to play though it without help from their coach.

In the end, the Orange just could not recover from all the pressure the Cardinals used to destroy their confidence. As a result, the scoreboard deficit grew and grew. (Syracuse went over eleven minutes without a field goal.) The final numbers, which recorded a 17-point Louisville victory in this historic game, are all that anyone needs to see to understand a tale of two very different halves.

 

David Savage

 

 

Big East Conference Tournament – Semifinals

Big East Conference Tournament – Semifinals

 

(5) Syracuse 58 (1) Georgetown 55 (OT)

Syracuse advances to play (2) Louisville in the championship game on March 16

 

Aesthetically, Friday night’s Big East Tournament semifinal between the Syracuse Orange and Georgetown Hoyas was a dud. The quality of basketball produced by these teams did not measure up to the standards of the great 1980s teams that put the Big East Conference on the map. However, in terms of theater and atmospherics, these old rivals – playing together in the Big East Tournament for the last time – created a scene and a memory that diehard college basketball fans will remember.

 

The great thing about conference tournaments is that they provide neutral-court showcases for classic rivalries. Syracuse and Georgetown might have thought that they would never play again in a Big East game, but this tournament in New York City reunited them on one more occasion. Syracuse gained a third chance to beat Georgetown after losing twice to the Hoyas in the regular season, but Georgetown had to relish the prospect of being able to play a hated foe on the big stage in the Big Apple. Syracuse and Georgetown made the Big East along with St. John’s in the 1980s, when the league brought its tournament to New York under the vision and leadership of founder Dave Gavitt. The fact that these schools were able to meet in Madison Square Garden created an electric environment and a ferocious display of mortal combat.

The passion of the moment exceeded the deficiencies of the two teams on Friday, as every rebound and every shot were contested in a 45-minute slugfest. Neither team hit more than 38 percent of its field goals or 69 percent of its foul shots. Long scoring droughts marked this rock fight, which lacked any semblance of flow and structure. The immensely physical nature of the game made it hard for the officials to separate fouls from non-fouls, creating a number of controversial calls late in regulation and in overtime.

Ultimately, Syracuse’s defense won the night, limiting Georgetown to four points in the extra period. A dunk by Syracuse’s C.J. Fair, who struggled from the field throughout this game (3 of 16), gave the Orange a 57-53 cushion with 2:04 left. Georgetown had a chance to tie when trailing by three points with five seconds left, but an Otto Porter turnover sealed the Hoyas’ fate.

After the game, victorious Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, the only coach who has been part of the old Big East for all of its existence (since 1979), shook hands with former Georgetown head coach John Thompson, Jr., the father of current Hoya coach John Thompson III. Boeheim and Papa Thompson coached against each other in Madison Square Garden in the 1980s. Three decades later, their teams roused a New York crowd one last time… not with elegance, but with uncommonly impressive effort. Syracuse, though, earned the right to win one more Big East Tournament championship. If Boeheim can claim it, he’ll add to his place in the history of this conference, which won’t be the same in the fall of 2013.

 

(2) Louisville 69 (6) Notre Dame 57

Louisville advances to play (5) Syracuse in the semifinals on March 15

 

After the sound and fury of Friday night’s first semifinal between Syracuse and Georgetown, the second semifinal between the Louisville Cardinals and Notre Dame Fighting Irish felt like an afterthought, and although Notre Dame kept this game close for 35 minutes, there was never a sense that the sixth seed was likely to gain the upper hand. In the 36th minute, Louisville pounced, and as a result, two teams that will eventually make their way to the Atlantic Coast Conference – Syracuse next season, Louisville in 2014 – will play for the last tournament championship of the old Big East Conference.

 

Louisville’s Luke Hancock hit a three-pointer with 4:10 left in regulation, giving the Cardinals a 55-44 lead and enabling them to cruise to the finish line in yet another Big East semifinal. Louisville reached its third Big East Tournament final in the past five years, while Notre Dame – another school that will move to the ACC in men’s basketball – was denied in its attempt to reach its first Big East final.

 

Louisville’s defense was disruptive from start to finish, as was the case when the Cardinals bounced Notre Dame out of the 2012 Big East Tournament. Louisville thrives in tournament situations under head coach Rick Pitino, aided by its depth and emboldened by the swagger of its New York-born coach. The Cardinals hit 46 percent of their shots while Notre Dame converted just 37 percent of its field goal attempts. Louisville’s best players played at their best, with center Gorgui Dieng collecting 12 rebounds and 4 blocked shots while teammates Russ Smith and Peyton Siva combined for 32 points.

 

Matt Zemek

Big East Conference Tournament – Quarterfinals

Big East Conference Tournament – Quarterfinals

(1) Georgetown 62 (9) Cincinnati 43

Georgetown advances to play (5) Syracuse in the semifinals on March 15

The Georgetown Hoyas beat the Syracuse Orange twice in the 2013 Big East Conference season, polishing off their foremost adversary in a league that has existed since 1979. With Syracuse headed to the Atlantic Coast Conference in the fall of 2013, it was quite possible that the Hoyas’ rivalry with Syracuse had ended on March 9, when Georgetown clinched a share of the Big East regular season championship with a 61-39 win over the Orange in Washington, D.C. However, Georgetown and Syracuse will get to meet one more time before the schools go their separate ways.

Moreover, they’ll get to meet in Madison Square Garden, the same building where the Georgetown-Syracuse feud developed thanks to some unforgettable encounters in the Big East Tournament.

Georgetown secured its place in the semifinals, opposite Syracuse, by shutting down Cincinnati’s inconsistent offense on Thursday. Cincinnati trailed by a slim 38-35 margin with 13:27 left in regulation, but the Bearcats scored just six points in the next 10 minutes and did not score in a span of just over six minutes in the latter stages of the second half, sealing their fate. Cincinnati’s number of made field goal attempts (14) was the same as its number of turnovers. That fact neatly put this ugly affair in perspective.

(5) Syracuse 62 (4) Pittsburgh 59

Syracuse advances to play (1) Georgetown in the semifinals on March 15

As this game started it was easy to see which Orange team had shown up: It was the one that can play. Pittsburgh came prepared for this and was also showing its A-game for a period of time. As the first-half game clock spun down, neither school was able to truly dominate the other, but in the final few minutes of the half, Syracuse kept hitting its shots and Pittsburgh could not buy a basket with a thousand dollars. A flurry by Syracuse made the score 40 to 27 in favor of the Orange going into halftime. With the second half approaching its halfway mark, the Panthers used gritty play to work their way back into this game, which is what brought this quarterfinal down to one crazy ending. The Panthers’ Talib Zanna missed a key free throw with only 32 seconds left that would have tied the the game up. After that, it was all Orange until the end.

 

 

(2) Louisville 74 (7) Villanova 55

Louisville advances to play (6) Notre Dame in the semifinals on March 15

The extremely hectic yet low-scoring start of this matchup was misleading in terms of indicating how much skill was on the floor in this game. The Louisville Cardinals did not even get their first basket until the 16:19 mark of the first half, but after that, they leveled out and began scoring more regularly. Add in the way that Louisville likes to get after the ball, and despite the slow start up, it began to be apparent that the Cardinals were really dominating in the early going. Louisville forced Villanova to call a series of quick timeouts to maintain possession of the ball. Only a Cardinal dry spell of shooting that lasted about eight minutes allowed the Wildcats to get back into it, but as the first half was winding down, the tough and “getting-after-it” defensive style of Louisville still dominated the matchup, leaving the score 30 to 21 in favor of the Cardinals at the half because of 18 turnovers for Villanova.

All of the trends that Louisville established in the first half the Cards looked to continue in the second… and did so. The Cardinals’ offense was led by Russ Smith, who finished the night with 28 points that, in combination with his team’s defensive determination, made the game as ugly as possible and finished Villanova for the tournament.

(6) Notre Dame 73 (3) Marquette 65

Notre Dame advances to play (2) Louisville in the semifinals on March 15

Marquette’s stronger shooting ability helped the Golden Eagles to get off to a faster start than their opponents, the Fighting Irish. The Golden Eagles were putting out so much more effort that Notre Dame had only scored four points by the under-12-minute TV timeout because of their own poor shooting (2-17 at this point). The tough and persistent play of the Irish helped them get right back into this contest, however. The Irish did not forget their strong defensive style that changed the pace more into the kind of tempo that favored them. By filling in the rest of the half with a much better shooting performance (9-13 in the final 12 minutes), it was no real surprise at halftime that the Irish had taken control and were up 29 to 25.

The second period started with a very aggressive approach by both teams, which made the play typical of what you would expect in the Big East Tournament. Vander Blue of Marquette led the way for his team in the second half on the offensive end of the floor, finishing the night with 12 total points, which was a big help in the back-and-forth seesaw this game became. In the end this game’s result was because of the sharp shooting of Notre Dame’s Pat Connaughton, who provided key 3-point makes in the final minutes of this game, finishing with 18 points.

 

David Savage and Matt Zemek

 

Big East Conference Tournament – Second Round

Big East Conference Tournament – Second Round

(5) Syracuse 75 (12) Seton Hall 63

Syracuse advances to play (4) Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals on March 14

After a very rough and difficult start in the first half of this game, the Syracuse Orange made a good recovery before halftime arrived, tying the score at 34-apiece, which gave them the chance they were going to need going into the second half. Seton Hall outplayed Syracuse in the first half but did not have the halftime advantage to show for it.

The second half did feature a quicker start for the Orange, but the Pirates hung tough and kept the score close for the first ten minutes of the half. Then the Syracuse scorers really came alive, led by Brandon Triche down the stretch. A flourish from Triche, who finished with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting, was all it took to finish off a Seton Hall team that had such a noticeably weak season. When the game ended, the Orange were on top with ease, to the surprise of no one in Madison Square Garden.

(9) Cincinnati 61 (8) Providence 44

Cincinnati advances to play (1) Georgetown in the quarterfinals on March 14

The Providence Friars improved over the course of the Big East regular season, but they ran out of gas at the very end of the road. The Friars will likely go to the National Invitation Tournament based on a February surge, but they were not able to advance in the Big East Tournament in the second week of March.

Providence hit just 28 percent of its field goal attempts and made just 1 of 16 three-point shots on Wednesday in Madison Square Garden. Coach Ed Cooley’s team will go home to Rhode Island after stumbling in New York against the Cincinnati Bearcats. This game was much more about Providence’s deficiencies than anything Cincinnati managed to do well. The Bearcats hit just 40 percent of their field goals and made only five triples on Wednesday, but those totals were more than enough against an opponent that couldn’t hit the side of a barn. JaQuon Parker was the best player on the floor, scoring 15 points and collecting 10 rebvounds for Cincinnati with 3 assists and no turnovers. Kadeem Batts led Providence with 14 points, but he needed 17 shots to do so.

(7) Villanova 66 (10) St. John’s 53

Villanova advances to play (2) Louisville in the quarterfinals on March 14

It was easy to see what kind of matchup this game was going to be right from the start. It was going to be all about defense. Halfway though the first half, most of the scoring had been done by the Villanova Wildcats, who were showing why they are on their way to the NCAA’s Big Dance. The St. John’s Red Storm were not going to go quietly into the night, however; they fought their way back into the game with some tough inside baskets, and the score was tied at the half, 24-24. In the second half both teams had quality starts, but St. John’s faded first, and the good shooters on Villanova, led by Mouphtaou Yarou (9 of 10 from the field, 18 points) began to push their team ahead. Then, despite the best efforts of St. John’s to make the game as ugly as possible, the Red Storm were no match for the Wildcats’ more high-powered offense. Villanova made sure it will go to the NCAA tournament this season.

(6) Notre Dame 69 (11) Rutgers 61

Notre Dame advances to play (3) Marquette in the quarterfinals on March 14

This game was not destined to be a great mystery. With the way it began, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were showing why by controlling the boards and scoring efficiently. Rutgers did continue to put up a fight, but to no great effect on the outcome of the game, as the first half came to a close with the score 33 to 19 in Notre Dame’s favor at that point. In the start of the second half, the game changed a bit as Rutgers decided to bring its A-game and a lot more energy, closing the gap to seven and making the Irish call an early timeout. After that, the game returned to the early style of play from the first half, with Notre Dame regaining its composure and hitting timely shots. In the end, that was all that it took. The Irish used their control of the game’s tempo to grind it out to the end.

 

David Savage and Matt Zemek

 

 

Big East Conference Tournament – Preliminary Round

Big East Conference Tournament – Preliminary Round

(12) Seton Hall 46 (13) South Florida 42 (OT)

Seton Hall advances to play (5) Syracuse in the second round on March 13

It is hard to believe that the South Florida Bulls made the NCAA tournament last season. They ended their 2013 campaign playing the same low-scoring games that marked so much of their 2012 journey through the Big East Conference.

Recall what South Florida did 12 months ago. The Bulls spent the final five weeks of their season winning games, but without any style points whatsoever. The 2012 Bulls won games in February and March by scores of 58-51, 56-47, 55-48, 58-44, and even 46-45. They mucked the game up and dared opposing offenses to execute against them. South Florida couldn’t shoot very well, but it found a way to play terrific defense and advance to the NCAA tournament on a diet consisting almost entirely of elbow grease and sweat. South Florida was an ugly team to watch, but the Bulls made themselves a tricky opponent.

A year later, USF continued to immerse itself in defensive grinders, but now, the ways of fortune and chance are working against the Bulls, not for them.

With just under four minutes left in regulation on Tuesday night in New York, South Florida had held the Seton Hall Pirates to under 30 points. USF’s defense flourished against the Pirates, who were completely confounded by the Bulls inside Madison Square Garden. Seton Hall’s season had been almost as miserable as South Florida’s. With the Bulls dictating the pace and style of play, SHU was staring at a very likely exit; trailing South Florida by eight points with under four minutes left is akin to trailing a fast-tempo team such as Arkansas by 16 points in the same time frame.

Yet, in a telling indication of how different 2013 has been from 2012, South Florida lost hold of a game in which its defense had been overwhelmingly effective.

Seton Hall scored three straight baskets in a span of two minutes and 41 seconds to create a 37-35 game with 39 ticks left in regulation. Then, with 26 seconds to go, South Florida’s Victor Rudd lost the ball out of bounds before Seton Hall could foul him. SHU’s Fuquan Edwin tied the game on a layup with 22 seconds left. South Florida had three chances to win in the final 11 seconds, but missed on all three attempts.

Given a reprieve, Seton Hall regrouped in overtime. Edwin scored the go-ahead bucket with 1:09 left, and the Pirates watched Rudd miss a potential game-winning three with seven seconds to go. The Pirates corralled the rebound, and when Edwin hit two foul shots with one second left, Seton Hall had secured a berth in the second round against Syracuse.

(11) Rutgers 76 (14) DePaul 57

Rutgers advances to play (6) Notre Dame in the second round on March 13

The night’s second game in Madison Square Garden was a lot less dramatic than the first. DePaul, the last-place team in the league for yet another season, could not escape the play-in round of the 2013 Big East Tournament. The Blue Demons were run out of the building by Rutgers in the second half, ending the latest in a series of entirely futile campaigns for a school that was once a college basketball powerhouse.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, DePaul was an elite program under the guidance of coach Ray Meyer, an iconic figure in the city of Chicago who brought in talents such as Mark Aguirre and Terry Cummings. DePaul made the 1979 Final Four and was an annual title contender in the sport. The memories of those days are long gone, though, as the Blue Demons drift through not just mediocrity, but ineptitude, on a yearly basis. Rutgers has advanced to the second round of the Big East Tournament only twice since 2006, but when compared to DePaul on Tuesday night, Rutgers looked like a competent team. A 16-3 run by the Scarlet Knights busted open a 36-36 game, giving Rutgers a 52-39 lead with 15:11 left. DePaul never seriously challenged Rutgers over the remainder of regulation time, and the state university of New Jersey saw its basketball team advance to the second round of the Big East Tournament against Notre Dame on Wednesday.

Matt Zemek

Big East Basketball Week in Review – March 4, 2013

Big East Basketball Scores

Monday, February 25

  • Marquette 74 Syracuse 71
  • Seton Hall 66 Villanova 65

Wednesday, February 27

  • Pittsburgh 64 South Florida 44
  • Louisville 79 DePaul 58
  • South Florida 49 Villanova 61
  • Georgetown 79 Connecticut 78 (2OT)

Saturday, March 2

  • Georgetown 64 Rutgers 51
  • Louisville 58 Syracuse 53
  • Cincinnati 61 Connecticut 56
  • Marquette 72 Notre Dame 64
  • Providence 62 St. John’s 59

Sunday, March 3

  • South Florida 83 DePaul 73
  • Pittsburgh 73 Villanova 64 (OT)

In the 2012-2013 college basketball season, it has been extremely difficult for teams in most conferences to win on the road. In the Big East Conference, it seems that this trend has not been as pronounced, at least in terms of the season series between the Louisville Cardinals and Syracuse Orange. Several weeks after Syracuse won on Louisville’s home floor, the Cardinals were able to return the favor in upstate New York. As a result, Rick Pitino – once an assistant to Jim Boeheim – was able to avenge a loss to his former employer, giving the Big East yet another plot twist near the end of the regular season.

Louisville and Syracuse met in the Carrier Dome this past Saturday, filling up the big arena one more time for a showcase game. Syracuse’s Senior Day is on Wednesday, March 6, but that game is against DePaul. This was the final high-profile contest for Syracuse ticketholders. They wanted to see their team rebound from a Monday night loss at Marquette in which a seven-point lead was thrown down the drain in the latter stages of the second half. Syracuse’s high-water mark this season came in a two-point triumph in Louisville in the middle of January. Boeheim’s bunch has been looking for a spark ever since, and the locals in Syracuse hoped that the presence of Louisville would re-ignite their beloved Orange. Such a wish did not come to fruition.

Louisville locked down Syracuse, playing one of its best defensive games of the season. The Cardinals received a typically strong outing from center Gorgui Dieng, who altered countless shots near the rim and prevented dribble penetration from being particularly effective for the Orange. Louisville was also able to take away the three-point shooting of Syracuse sniper James Southerland, who was not able to establish a comfort zone on Saturday. Syracuse’s C.J. Fair was able to get into the paint and hit 10-foot floaters, but other than that, the Orange didn’t find any reliable offensive options. Louisville used a late three-pointer from Luke Hancock to break a 48-48 tie, and the Cardinals did the rest from the foul line to tuck away a big win. UL is now one game behind league-leading Georgetown in the conference race. Georgetown finishes with a tough road game at Villanova and a demanding home game against Syracuse. The odds of a shared Big East title are considerable at this point.

Elsewhere in the league, Marquette – having beaten Syracuse – stayed one game behind Georgetown as well, beating Notre Dame this past Saturday. The Golden Eagles could also be part of a split title if things break right for them this week. Cincinnati, sliding to the bubble, gained a must-have win against Connecticut to shore up its resume. Saint John’s, on the other hand, saw its bubble burst in a bad loss at Providence.

The Big East team that had the worst week was clearly Villanova. Fresh from a win over Marquette on Feb. 23, the Wildcats just needed to beat Seton Hall this past Monday to feel safe about an NCAA bid, but coach Jay Wright’s team lost by one on a late three-pointer from the Pirates. Needing a win to undo the damage done by that loss, Villanova blew a lead late in regulation and lost at Pittsburgh in overtime on Sunday. The Wildcats have to beat Georgetown if they expect to make the NCAAs.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

Big East Basketball Week in Review – February 11, 2013

Big East Basketball Scores

Monday, February 4

  • Syracuse 63 Notre Dame 47
  • Pittsburgh 56 Seton Hall 46

Tuesday, February 5

  • Villanova 94 DePaul 71

Wednesday, February 6

  • Louisville 68 Rutgers 48
  • Marquette 70 South Florida 47
  • Providence 54 Cincinnati 50
  • St. John’s 71 Connecticut 65

Saturday, February 9

  • Georgetown 69 Rutgers 63
  • Notre Dame 104 Louisville 101 (5OT)
  • Pittsburgh 62 Cincinnati 52
  • Marquette 89 DePaul 78
  • Villanova 68 South Florida 40

Sunday, February 10

  • Connecticut 78 Seton Hall 67
  • Syracuse 77 St. John’s 58

It made you laugh. It made you cry. It made you swear and drink a lot if you were an adult-aged fan of either team. It caused frustration, exasperation, and consternation for roughly three and a half hours, but it ultimately brought elation to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Head coach Mike Brey and his players have a game they will talk to their children and grandchildren about when they reflect on their careers, a moment that will endure no matter what happens in the Big East Tournament or the NCAAs.

Notre Dame, with four players having fouled out, nevertheless remained the last team standing in a five-overtime thriller against the Louisville Cardinals. Notre Dame prevailed on its home floor in South Bend, Ind., gaining the kind of win that will solidify the Irish’s place in the 2013 NCAA tournament field. Louisville is also safe for the Big Dance, but the Cardinals missed a huge opportunity to move north in the Big East standings and improve their seeding for March Madness.

There are two sides to the story. Let’s start with the winning one. Notre Dame trailed 56-48 with 50 seconds left in regulation, and the game figured to be over in normal time, without need for any extra periods. Notre Dame had gone over 10 minutes without a field goal in the second half, breaking the spell on a layup with 1:08 left. Nobody on the Irish had proven worthy of being given the rock for a three-point jumper, but just then, Jerian Grant hit three triples on Notre Dame’s next three possessions. The final one brought the Irish within three points, at 60-57, with 28 seconds left. Louisville still held the Cards, pardon the expression. However, UL’s Gorgui Dieng – after being fouled with 27 seconds left – missed two free throws. Grant took the ball to the rim this time, He made a layup, which Louisville should have been happy to accept, given that Grant didn’t attempt a game-tying three. There was just one problem, however: Louisville’s Wayne Blackshear fouled Grant, setting up an old-fashioned three-point play which tied the score at 60 with 21 seconds to go. Louisville then failed to get a shot off on the last possession of regulation, as Dieng bobbled an entry pass from point guard Peyton Siva. Grant’s amazing display – 12 points in a 42-second stretch – will be remembered as the most impressive performance of this game for the victorious Irish.

Now, to the losing side. The first four overtime periods witnessed Louisville gain an advantage and then fritter it away in the final minute. UL led 68-66 in the first overtime and had a chance to break a 68-all tie on the final trip. But Russ Smith missed a long jump shot. Louisville led 75-72 with 25 seconds left in the second overtime, but poor perimeter defense enabled Notre Dame’s Cameron Biedscheid to hit a tying three with 17 seconds left. Smith and teammate Chane Behanan missed in the final seconds, sending the game to a third overtime. In that third extra period, Louisville led 82-81 and, moments later, trailed 83-82 but had a chance to win at the foul line. Behanan, though, made only one of his two foul shots with 16 seconds left. On to overtime number four.

In the fourth period, Louisville appeared ready to finish off a depleted Notre Dame team that was losing bodies to foul trouble. UL led by four at 93-89 with 40 seconds left. Notre Dame scored with 37 ticks on the clock, but Louisville got a three-on-one break off the inbounds pass. Smith was in the middle of the break and refused to pass to an open teammate on the left side. He took a difficult layup from the right side and missed it. Notre Dame got the rebound and scored on a tip-in by heroic backup center Garrick Sherman with nine seconds left. Sherman didn’t play a single second in regulation, but he scored 17 points and grabbed 6 rebounds in the five overtime periods for Notre Dame.

In the fifth overtime, the momentum finally swung Notre Dame’s way after all of Louisville’s missed chances. The Irish, with Eric Atkins leading the way, attacked the basket and took a 102-100 lead. Louisville failed to hit a field goal in the final 1:44 of the period, and the Irish won when Smith’s last three clanged off the rim with five seconds left. Remarkably, neither team committed more than 16 turnovers, despite a choppy and uneven style of play. The two teams combined for 97 free throws, 158 field goal attempts, 50 three-point attempts, and 66 fouls.

Elsewhere in the league, Pittsburgh – which has lost only once since Jan. 12 – affirmed its place as an NCAA tournament team by winning at Cincinnati this past Saturday. The Bearcats are still in the field, but they’re moving toward the bubble and are hardly a lock after losing to both Pitt and Providence this past week. Syracuse won twice to remain tied with Marquette for first place in the league. The Orange’s win over Saint John’s on Sunday kept the Johnnies on the bad side of the bubble, denying them a leverage-producing poker chip that would have come in handy for March.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

Big East Basketball Week in Review – February 4, 2013

Weekly Big East Basketball Scores

Monday, January 28

  • Louisville 64 Pittsburgh 61
  • Marquette 63 South Florida 50

Wednesday, January 30

  • Georgetown 74, Seton Hall 52
  • St. John’s 79 DePaul 74 (OT)
  • Cincinnati 62 Rutgers 54
  • Notre Dame 65 Villanova 60

Thursday, January 31

  • Connecticut 82 Providence 79 (OT)

Saturday, February 2

  • Cincinnati 65 Seton Hall 59
  • Notre Dame 79 DePaul 71 (OT)
  • Pittsburgh 65 Syracuse 55
  • Georgetown 68 St. John’s 56

Sunday, February 3

  • Louisville 70 Marquette 51
  • Connecticut 69 South Florida 64 (OT)
  • Providence 55 Villanova 52

In the sprawling and expansive Big East Conference, the competition for NCAA tournament bids in the second tier of the league is always going to be fierce. After the top four or five teams, the sixth through ninth spots are going to be the focus of some very contentious fights. Right now, the Georgetown Hoyas, Saint John’s Red Storm, Villanova Wildcats, and Pittsburgh Panthers are part of that messy and muddled mixture of teams trying to gain positioning for March. Some members of this group are enjoying more success than others.

Georgetown and Pittsburgh substantially increased their chances of making the NCAA tournament this past week. The Hoyas and Panthers took very big steps forward on the road to Bracketville. Georgetown burnished its resume with two decisive home-court thumpings of second-tier league opponents, while Pittsburgh took down Syracuse at home to notch the kind of high-end conquest that will make its resume a hundred times better on Selection Sunday. Georgetown was never troubled in twin wins over Seton Hall and Saint John’s, the latter win taking a lot of air out of the Red Storm’s charge up the ladder in the Big East. SJU had worked its way to a 6-3 record in the Big East, on the strength of a weak schedule. The Red Storm needed a more impressive conquest in order to make a credible case to the NCAA Selection Committee, but they utterly failed against the Hoyas, and now they’re not in the heart of the Big Dance conversation, lingering on the periphery.

Speaking of the periphery, Villanova might look back on this as the week when it played itself from the NCAAs to the NIT. The Wildcats lost at Notre Dame in the middle of the week – no shame at all in that – but the Wildcats then lost at home to lowly Providence on Sunday, losing 55-52 on a three by the Friars’ Bryce Cotton with 2.2 seconds left. Villanova has now lost twice to Providence this season. Those two setbacks, coupled with a nasty 18-point loss to Columbia of the Ivy League, will undo the good things Villanova did in wins over Syracuse and Louisville. The Wildcats have to compensate for these awful losses to Providence in the next five weeks.

Elsewhere in the league, Louisville snapped a three-game losing streak by edging Pittsburgh on Monday. The Cardinals then hammered Marquette on Sunday to re-establish themselves on a national level. Scoring punch had been elusive for Louisville in recent weeks, but the Cards scored 38 first-half points and maintained a steady pace that head coach Rick Pitino will want more of in the coming months.

Notre Dame and Cincinnati got healthy by winning two league games this past week, firming up their spots in the Big Dance this season.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

Big East Basketball Week in Review – January 28, 2013

Weekly Big East Basketball Scores
Monday, January 21

  • Syracuse 57 Cincinnati 55
  • Georgetown 63 Notre Dame 47

Tuesday, January 22

  • Pittsburgh 68 Providence 64
  • Villanova 73 Louisville 64

Wednesday, January 23

  • Seton Hall 55 South Florida 47
  • Saint John’s 72 Rutgers 60

Saturday, January 26

  • Villanova 75 Syracuse 71 (OT)
  • Georgetown 53 Louisville 51
  • Marquette 81 Providence 71
  • Notre Dame 73 South Florida 65
  • Pittsburgh 93 DePaul 55

Sunday, January 27

  • Saint John’s 71 Seton Hall 67
  • Connecticut 66 Rutgers 54

In the 2012-2013 college basketball season, there are going to be many ups and downs, but few people who consistently watch the Big East Conference could have imagined that in late January, it would be extremely hard for Louisville to win games… and for Villanova to lose them. Yet, that’s where we are as the first month of the year winds down.

Louisville had been the No. 1 team in the United States on the morning of Jan. 19. Then, the Cardinals lost at home, but they lost to a Syracuse side that’s also in the top 10 along with UL. There was no shame in that loss, and it seemed entirely likely that Louisville would be able to regroup against Villanova and Georgetown, two teams that struggle at the offensive end of the floor, making them easy marks for the Cardinals’ ruthless defense. Instead, Louisville not only failed to get healthy in this two-game stretch; it didn’t even split the two games, losing in both Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., to likely spiral out of the top 10 altogether.

Louisville is known for midseason offensive slumps, but this team – tested and hardened in its run to the 2012 Final Four – was supposed to have been experienced enough to minimize bad patches and find ways to score in second halves in 2013. Yet, that hasn’t happened over the past eight days, including the Syracuse loss a week ago. The Cardinals were leading Villanova on Tuesday night, but then went over five minutes without a field goal and lost by nine. This past Saturday, Louisville’s defense was doing the job against Georgetown, but the Cardinals went 7:51 without a field goal in the midsection of the second half. After battling back from a six-point deficit to tie the score at 50-50 with 4:10 left, UL scored just one point for the remainder of the contest. Georgetown scored only three points in that same span of time, but that was obviously enough to win, 53-51. Louisville has to solve this perplexing issue if it wants to return to the Final Four.

Meanwhile, look at life from a Villanova perspective. The Wildcats got that aforementioned win over Louisville on Tuesday, but could they back that up with a win over Syracuse on Saturday? Villanova’s resume was improved by the win over UL, but it was not yet catapulted to NCAA tournament quality for 2013. The Cats had absorbed too many bad losses along the way, especially to Alabama and Columbia. Villanova had to add to its portfolio in order to get on the bubble. With Syracuse leading 61-58 in the final 20 seconds of regulation and shooting a one-and-one, hopes looked grim for VU. However, a magical season includes rise-from-the-dead moments, and the Wildcats found their resurrection against the Orange. Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams missed the front end of the one-and-one, and after a missed three with eight seconds left, Villanova got the offensive rebound, setting up guard Ryan Arcidiacono for a game-tying three from the left corner with just under three seconds to go. Arcidiacono swished the shot, sending the crowd in Philadelphia into hysterics. Villanova found the sanctuary of overtime, and in the extra period, back-to-back threes by James Bell propelled the Cats to a four-point win that now has them in the NCAA hunt. It was truly a remarkable week in the Big East, as Villanova became a consistent winner and Louisville a regular loser.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

Big East Basketball Week in Review – January 21, 2013

Weekly Big East Basketball Scores

Monday, January 14

  • Louisville 73 Connecticut 58

Tuesday, January 15

  • Cincinnati 75 DePaul 70
  • Saint John’s 67 Notre Dame 63

Wednesday, January 16

  • Marquette 69 Seton Hall 62
  • Georgetown 74 Providence 65
  • Pittsburgh 58 Villanova 43

Thursday, January 17

  • Rutgers 70 South Florida 67

Saturday, January 19

  • Syracuse 70 Louisville 68
  • Providence 69 Villanova 66
  • South Florida 61 Georgetown 58
  • Cincinnati 71 Marquette 69 (OT)
  • Notre Dame 69 Rutgers 66
  • Pittsburgh 69 Connecticut 61
  • Saint John’s 71 DePaul 62

In the 2012-2013 college basketball season, Louisville was supposed to gain the upper hand on Syracuse in the Big East race. In the 2011-2012 season, Syracuse owned the superior talent and the depth consistent with a No. 1 overall seed. The Orange probably would have made the Final Four had center Fab Melo been able to remain academically eligible during the NCAA tournament. Instead, Melo was held out for the Big Dance, and as a result, the Orange fell to second-seeded Ohio State in the East Regional final. Louisville was a No. 4 seed that experienced all sorts of dislocations and disruptions during the season. The Cardinals did catch fire in March, but Syracuse beat them in the regular season, winning a one-possession game in Louisville and serving notice that it was made of sterner stuff within the confines of Big East competition. This season, Louisville was supposed to hold serve at home against Syracuse. This season, UL had the horses while Syracuse was piecing together its roster to a certain extent.

Yet, Syracuse didn’t care for the way things were supposed to go. The Orange wrote their own script and are now the team to chase in the Big East.

The Orange and Cardinals locked up in a thriller this past weekend, but in the final 1:58 of regulation, it was Syracuse which squeezed harder at the defensive end of the floor. Four defensive stops in the final minutes enabled coach Jim Boeheim’s bunch to shut out Louisville over that period of time and dig out a massive victory in enemy territory. Four points in the final 54 seconds, the go-ahead score coming on a Michael Carter-Williams dunk with 25 ticks on the clock, pushed the Cuse past the Ville in a game that had all the intensity of a defining regular season matchup. Rick Pitino’s Cardinals will be smarting for a long time in response to this loss. The challenge for Louisville is to not allow this setback to lead to a dispirited and listless performance in the coming week. The Big East just doesn’t allow teams to take mental breathers.

Elsewhere in the league, Pittsburgh strung together back-to-back conference wins for the first time this season. The Panthers finally won a home game in the Big East by taking down Connecticut this past Saturday. At 3-3 in the league, Pitt has put itself back in the NCAA at-large hunt, but coach Jamie Dixon knows that his team has a long way to go.

Notre Dame lost at Saint John’s this past week, an unexpected stumble for the Fighting Irish. Coach Mike Brey needs to get his team to recapture the level of performance it displayed in December and very early January.

Georgetown endured a terrible loss at South Florida. The Hoyas gave USF its first Big East win this season on a night when Georgetown scored fewer than 60 points on yet another occasion. The Hoyas’ offense has been cringe-inducing throughout the season, and until something changes, head coach John Thompson III will be staring at an NIT bid.

The Big East team that had as fun a week as Syracuse did was Cincinnati. The Bearcats won two games, the second one coming in overtime over Marquette. The Golden Eagles scored only 13 points in the first half but then posted 50 in the second half to force overtime. Cincinnati was up to the task in the extra stanza, however, and as a result, head coach Mick Cronin can rest a lot easier. He doesn’t have to worry as much about the direction of his team, which suffered at the offensive end of the floor in the first two weeks of January.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer