Video: Louisville wins final Big East Tournament - click here
NEW YORK (WDRB) -- Syracuse looked as if it had a date with Big East destiny in Saturday night's league championship game in Madison Square Garden.
Then the University of Louisville showed up in the second half with a box of chocolates and a handful of flowers, and claimed that honor for itself.
The Cardinals will go to the Big Dance in style, as Big East Tournament champions, a No. 1 seed and possibly the overall No. 1 seed, while posting yet another classic comeback in coach Rick Pitino's storied comeback collection. After trailing by 16 points, the Cardinals stormed to a 78-61 victory over the Orange in the final Big East Tournament in the league's current alignment.
The Cards became only the third team to win back-to-back Big East Tourney titles with a mammoth 27-2 second-half run.
This was no ordinary win. You can't overstate the hostility the Cards faced in the Garden. Syracuse likely had a 10-1 edge in fans, and when the Orange blew out to a 16-point first-half lead on 6-12 three-point shooting, momentum was about as far against a team as it can get.
The Cards trailed 35-22 at half. Then they stormed the Garden.
Peyton Siva and Russ Smith opened the second half with a pair of jumpers. And once able to get into their full-court press, the Cardinals never let up. They attacked Syracuse in waves. After making 2 of their first 3 three-pointers of the second half, Syracuse cooled off. And the Cardinals heated up.
Nobody was hotter than Montrezl Harrell. The freshman exploded onto the scene in the second half with 14 points in the period, and the team's worst free throw shooter all season made 6 of 9 second-half. He finished with a team-best and career-high 20.
Peyton Siva, meanwhile, ended his string of subpar games against Syracuse with one of his best halves of the season in the second half, finishing with 11 points, 8 assists and 4 steals.
The win sends the Cards into the NCAA Tournament as a likely No. 1 seed, and according to ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi, perhaps the No. 1 overall seed.