NEW YORK — Peyton Siva had 11 points and eight assists to lead No. 4 Louisville to a 78-61 victory over No. 19 Syracuse on Saturday night, giving the Cardinals their second straight Big East tournament title.
The Cardinals got their third title by overcoming a 16-point deficit in the second half – almost double the previous record in a championship game – and they kept pouring it on once they got the lead, going ahead by as many as 18 points.
Second-seeded Louisville (29-5) – along with Georgetown and Marquette the tri-champions of the regular season – won its 10th straight game with its defense, forcing Syracuse into 20 turnovers and keeping the Orange off balance during the 24-3 run that turned the 16-point deficit into a 56-48 lead with 8:51 to play.
Siva joined Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing in 1984 and 1985, as the only repeat tournament MVP selections.
It was a heartbreaking loss for fifth-seeded Syracuse (26-9), who was hoping to leave Madison Square Garden with its sixth title as it heads for the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.
The Cardinals will join them in ACC the following season but this was the game that was signifying the end of the Big East as we know it with the seven basketball-only schools leaving to form a new conference and keeping the name Big East and the tournament at Madison Square Garden.
None of that mattered once the championship game started and it looked like it was going to be Syracuse’s romp to the title with the Orange scoring the game’s first eight points and taking a 35-22 halftime lead and people scrambling in record books to find the largest margin of victory in a Big East championship game.
Instead the search was on for the biggest halftime deficit overcome and the previous best was nine points by Louisville over Syracuse in 2009.
The Cardinals didn’t just overcome the halftime deficit, they made it disappear quickly. Louisville went on to lead 73-55 with 2:03 to play. The first 10 points in the run came in a span of 1:34. The Cardinals just wouldn’t let Syracuse get comfortable in any facet of the game – from bringing the ball up against the pressure to trying to find a clean look against the zone.
It was all Louisville in the second half.
Montrezl Harrell led Louisville with 20 points while Russ Smith and Luke Hancock both had 10 points. Gorgui Dieng had nine points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Cardinals.
C.J. Fair had 21 points for the Orange, Michael Carter-Williams had 11 points and nine assists and Brandon Triche added 10 points.
In their 10-game winning streak Louisville allowed opponents 54.6 points on 36.4 percent shooting while forcing 17.7 turnovers, including 10.4 steals.
Syracuse shot 40.8 percent but it committed 20 turnovers and Louisville had 11 steals, including four by Siva, who became the school’s all-time leader in that category on Friday night. He tied the Big East tournament record with seven steals against Notre Dame in the semifinals.
Syracuse will leave the Big East tied with Georgetown for the most conference tournament wins at 78.