By Sam Draut–
As the Big East and the University of Louisville part ways, we take a look back at a few of the greatest games the Cardinals played at Madison Square Gardens while in the Big East tournament.
March 9, 2007: Louisville 82, West Virginia 71, with two overtimes. After going 12-4 in the Big East regular season Louisville received a double-bye going into the Big East tournament. The No. 15 Cards battled the 22-8 Mountaineers, a team sternly locked on the bubble. Louisville squandered a 17-point lead in the second half, but Edgar Sosa drove the length of the court and finished with a left hand layup at the buzzer to force overtime. Sosa’s length of the floor drive in 4.3 seconds saved the day, but did he get away with an extra step? Regardless, both teams scored eight points in the first overtime period, sending the game to a second. Louisville took over in the second period, going on a 16-5 run to finish out the game. Sophomore Terrence Williams had 21 points and freshman Earl Clark contributed with 17 points. Seniors David Padgett and Brandon Jenkins had 16 and 11 points, respectively. This was U of L’s second appearance and first win in the Big East tournament; the win sent the 23-8 Cards to a semi-final match up versus Pittsburgh the next night.
March 14, 2009: Louisville 76, Syracuse 66. The No. 5 Cardinals took on the No. 20 Orange in an effort to complete the conference sweep. A week earlier, Louisville clinched the regular season Big East championship and then they faced Syracuse. The Cardinals were seeking their first ever Big East tournament championship, while Syracuse gutted into the final game. Not only were the Orange playing their fourth game in as many days, they battle UConn in the quarterfinals in a six overtime thriller, then played West Virginia in overtime the following night. Led by Jonny Flynn, the Orange took an eight-point lead into halftime, but Syracuse ran out of gas in the second half and the Cardinals cruised to a ten-point victory. Junior Earl Clark registered a double-double and freshman Samardo Samuels led the Cards with 15 points. Louisville celebrated its first Big East championship four years after entering the league. The win pushed them to the number one overall seed in the NCAA tournament, but the season ended in disappointment, as Louisville lost in the Elite Eight to Michigan State.
March 11, 2011: Louisville 83, Notre Dame 77. The No. 14 Cardinals faced the No. 4 Fighting Irish in the semi-finals. A month earlier, Louisville lost to Notre Dame in 89-79 overtime. Led by conference Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough, the Irish were playing their best basketball of the season, going into halftime up 46-32. With starters Peyton Siva, Preston Knowles, and Terrence Jennings playing with four fouls for much of the second half, the Cards stormed back. The rally was fueled by Pitino’s decision to press in the final 10 minutes, slowing down the Notre Dame offense. Knowles had clutch buckets late in the game to force overtime, he finished with 20 points. The Cards outscored the Irish 11-5 in overtime to bring home the victory. Siva finished with 15 points and seven assists, but fouled out in overtime. Jennings played the final 9:30 of regulation and overtime with four fouls, while finishing with 16 points. The emotional win sent Louisville to the Big East championship versus the Kemba Walker-led UConn Huskies who would be playing their fifth game in just as many days.
March 8, 2012: Louisville 84, Marquette 71. The Cardinals were going up against No. 9 Golden Eagles, but this game marked the beginning of something special. Yes, the previous night Louisville began their tremendous journey to the Final Four with a 61-55 victory versus Seton Hall, but the previous night gave hardly a glimpse of the future. The Cards appeared sluggish and neutral, the signs of an early exit for a team that struggled throughout the year. But suddenly, everything changed. Peyton Siva was flashing around in his bright red jersey, finishing with 18 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. Louisville went into halftime up 50-40 and all the pre-season potential displayed was abruptly magnified. The Cards forced 26 turnovers, showing a sign of things to come. Kyle Kuric finished with 20 points and Russ Smith added 12. Louisville went on to win the Big East championship and sprint towards a Final Four appearance. The magic began during this game.
March 16, 2013: Louisville 78- Syracuse 61. It was the final Big East tournament as we know it. Changes abound for 2014, and so, the world signified it as the final Big East tournament. Louisville was appearing in its fourth Big East championship game in five years. Pitino versus Boeheim. No. 19 Syracuse was playing its fourth game in as many days; No. 4 Louisville received a double bye as the two seed, playing its third game. The Orange came out hot and went up 13 at halftime. To start the second half, Syracuse stretched the lead to 16, up 45-29 with 15:50 left. Then, the Cards turned up the intensity; the full court pressure became unbearable and frustration mounted for the Orange. Louisville went on a 27-3 run and took control of the game. Montrezl Harrell led with a season high of 20 points and Luke Hancock and Russ Smith pitched in 10 apiece. Even so, the spotlight shined on Peyton Siva, who finished with 11 points, eight assists, and four steals. He joined Patrick Ewing as the only repeat Big East tournament MVP. Louisville is just the fourth Big East school to repeat as tournament champions, fittingly so, in the final years of the solidified conference. The Cardinals left their mark on the Big East tournament; in eight years they appeared in four championship games and won three Big East championships.
Photo by Austin Lassell/The Louisville Cardinal