Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Four games in four nights was too much for the Syracuse Orange to overcome, and the Louisville Cardinals pressed and rebounded their way to the 2013 Big East Tournament championship in Madison Square Garden.
- Geoffrey Chaucer, 1374
This quote, a.k.a. “All good things must come to an end”, could be applied to both Syracuse’s run in the 2013 Big East Tournament as well as the Big East Conference we all know and love. After sputtering to 1-4 finish in their last five regular season games, the Orange were able to turn their prospects around in the span of four short days and give new hope to a season that was on life support.
Though they did not win the tournament championship, Syracuse proved that the season is not over. Their reinvigorated play brought out a renewed sense of optimism in the fanbase, and the win over Georgetown will be talked about for many years to come.
But lose they did, unfortunately, and Louisville is the champion of the final Big East Tournament as we know it. There are some nuggets to be taken away from SU’s demise at the hands of the Cardinals, so here’s my report card of the proceedings as I witnessed them from courtside:
Head of the Class
C.J. Fair: After a statistically disastrous game vs. Georgetown, saved only by his clutch steal and dunk that will live on forever in the annals of SU basketball history, Fair bounced back with the best Orange effort of the night. In 38 minutes he dropped 21 points on 7-10 shooting, including a Southerlandesque 4-5 from three. He also chipped in 7 rebounds, and was the only SU player to shoot better than 50% from the field. It was another steady, workmanlike game for Fair, who still gets my vote for team MVP no matter what gaudy stats his teammates put up this past week.
Michael Carter-Williams: For the first half it looked like SU was going to cruise to an easy win, and MCW was leading the way. He was controlling the game with his ballhandling, singlehandedly breaking the Louisville pressure by beating the likes of Peyton Siva and Russ Smith in the open floor. But in the second half Louisville perhaps sensed SU’s fatigue from four straight days of intense play, and ratcheted up the intensity. Carter-Williams turned the ball over four times and missed 7 of 9 free throws for two major blemishes on an otherwise decent evening. He finished with 11 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds, but looked gassed at the end of the game and had no answer for wave after wave of Cardinal defense.
Baye Keita: Baye continued his surprising play for a second consecutive night, battling with Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng and Montrezl Harrell while (again) not getting much help from fellow center Rakeem Christmas. Keita scored 8 points on 4-6 from the line and 2-4 from the floor, to go along with his 7 rebounds (6 offensive) and 3 blocks. If he keeps that up, and SU gets anything out of Christmas and Dajuan Coleman, SU may not be a complete donut in the NCAA Tournament after all.
Stay After Class
Brandon Triche: Louisville’s quick, tenacious guards harassed Triche all night, and it showed in his final statline. He shot only 3-12 from the floor, including 1-5 from three, and turned the ball over a whopping 7 times when required to help MCW break the Cardinal press. SU as a whole turned the ball over 19 times, leading to 32 Louisville points, so it wasn’t just Brandon who had trouble. However, you’d like to see your senior guard step up and handle the pressure a little better than he did Saturday night.
Rebounding: SU was winning the boards in the first half. That didn’t last. A 24-17 halftime advantage quickly evaporated, not coincidentally as the Orange’s 13 point lead also disappeared. SU ended up losing the rebounding battle 34-33, which I believe was due to fatigue the fatigue of four games in four nights and a deeper Cardinal roster. Those Louisville offensive rebounds allowed the Cards to get easy second chances at the rim, and set up the stifling press after every made basket. The Orange would then have to work harder to get into their offensive sets, leading to a downward spiral that SU couldn’t fight its way out of this time.
Final Grade: B-
I can’t fault the Orange too much for this loss. Hell, I’m tired just from watching it for four straight days. I can’t imagine how exhausted some of them must feel after playing 30-something minutes a game. I think we should remember to take away the positives of this week, and chalk up this loss to the old “you can’t win ‘em all.” They have proven that they are out of their late-season swoon. Now they must show they can keep up the momentum heading into the NCAA Tournament next week.