NEW YORK – Despite a steady double-digit lead in the first half of play, #19/20 Syracuse couldn't hold off #4/4 Louisville, as the Cardinals came from behind to defeat the Orange in a 78-61 decision in the BIG EAST Tournament Championship game at Madison Square Garden.
Junior C.J. Fair led the offense with his 28th double-digit scoring performance of the season, tallying 21 points. Sophomore Michael Carter-Williams joined Fair in double-digits with 11 points.
Senior James Southerland posted nine points, including three three-pointers to set the BIG EAST Tournament record with a combined total of 17 across four games.
Following a 13-point lead at halftime, the Orange captured its largest lead of the game with 15:34 remaining in the second half, following and consecutive three-pointers from Fair and Southerland, setting the score at 45-29.
The Cardinals regrouped and began their climb to the top with five straight free throws, capped off by a three-pointer from Russ Smith, setting the score at 45-37. As the Orange struggled to stop the bleeding, Louisville delivered another crushing blow to the SU advantage with a 13-0 stretch, featuring four consecutive free throws and a three-pointer from Kevin Ware that lifted the Cardinals up by as much as eight points at 56-48 with 8:53 remaining in the game.
Louisville then took its largest lead of the game at 73-55, after a three-pointer from Wayne Blackshear that moved the Cards ahead by 18 points with 2:03 left in regulation.
As time expired, the Orange couldn't turn it around in time to save the game, dropping a 78-61 final decision.
Syracuse came out firing in the beginning of the game, scoring eight unanswered points to open the contest, featuring back-to-back three-pointers from junior C.J. Fair and senior James Southerland.
The Cardinals halted the streak with five quick points to shorten the advantage to three points. Southerland quickly answered with his second three-pointer of the evening to bring SU up by six at 11-5 with 14:06 remaining in the opening frame.
Louisville then used an 8-2 run to jump within two points of the lead at 17-15, helped out by six points from Montrezl Harrell. SU used a 14-3 scoring streak to secure a double-digit lead at 31-18 with less than three minutes remaining in the half. Sophomore Michael Carter-Williams led the team during the stretch with nine consecutive points.
Despite a pair of last minute free throws from Russ Smith, Fair drained a three to give the Orange a 13-point lead at the intermission.