A most improbable night on which a star was born, a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament may have been decided, and the University of Louisville claimed a third Big East Tournament championship. One for the ages.
The last big game in the Big East as we know it will be the most memorable one for University of Louisville basketball fans, many of us disheartened and discouraged beyond belief, looking for scapegoats at the half, down by 13 points.
Five minutes into the second half, down by 45-29, down by 16. The comeback would begin courtesy of James Southerland, with his fourth foul, sending Gorgui Dieng to the foul line. Two of two free throws.
Luke Hancock would get fouled on a three-point attempt. Three of three.
Rakeem Christmas would foul Montrezl Harrell. Gorgui Dieng turning his head, unable to watch the free throw shots. Montrezl swishing both of them. Should have been the first sign of a metamorphosis.
Two minutes later Harrell back at the free throw, Gorgui watching this time as Montrezl sinking both of them, reducing the deficit to four points. Making this a game. Is this really happening?
Harrell will be the highlight reel in one of those rare games in which a star is born, the elements, the chemicals and gases coming together at just the right time.
Turns out Montrezl Harrell was just getting warmed up. He will, in fact, become the highlight reel in one of those rare games giving birth to a bran d new star, the elements, the oxygen, the overall chemistry boiling over in perfect harmony. A shooting star as well.
You’ve wanted it to happen, hoping fervently for someone to emerge, and when it finally does, the incredible, unbelievable sensation of having witnessed the transformation during a milestone event.
Peyton Siva will find Harrell beneath the backboard at the 9:51 mark, Harrell flying straight to the basket, slamming it through the cylinder, the comeback complete, giving UofL its first lead 49-48.
Southerland had returned to the Syracuse lineup but he would not be heard from again. UofL was involved and committed by now, playing its brand of basketball, the timidity and passive stuff things of the past.
It was Montrezl Harrell’s time to dominate, conducting a clinic of catch and shoot, wanting the ball. Having the game of his life, becoming a full grown man, a monster, an unstoppable force, laughing, beside himself, engraving a special place for his name in UofL’s rich basketball history.
But more importantly on this night he would be the one bringing his team back from the dead, providing hope where there was none, providing energy for the listless, returning the magic to UofL basketball. He would finish with a team-leading 20 points, hitting seven of 13 field goal attempts and six of nine free throws.
Rick Pitino did not dare take Harrell out of the game after Harrell’s fuse had ignited. Couldn’t afford to rest him, and Harrell didn’t need any, just having too much fun, making himself indispensable on this marvelous night.
Louisville would outscore Syracuse 56-26 in the second half en route to the 78-61 win over Syracuse. Jim Boeheim was still shaking his head as he left the court. Who was that guy anyway?
Peyton Siva would be named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player with eight more assists and four steals to go with his 11 points. The second player ever to earn the honor two seasons in a row, most deservedly, but he’ll never forget the role Montrezl Harrell played in making it possible.
Filed Under: Basketball