By Justin Renck:
WOW! Well that was an exciting game, to say the least. In the first half, it looked like Syracuse could not miss a shot. They even banked in a 3! Even when we got down 16, I wasn’t worried. However, I did think “Well, it is just destiny for Syracuse to win this last game.” But still, I know what kind of team we have. We go on 6-0 and 8-0 runs all the time. It would just take one of those to get some momentum back and make it a game again, and that’s what happened. This team never quit, they never do at all. So I never quit believing in them, ever.
I was watching the game at my aunt and uncle’s house. When we got down 16, my uncle said “It’s ok. We are going to go on a 10-0 run here and get back into it.” This was during the under 16 minute timeout in the 2nd half. James Southerland had just picked up his 4th foul for Syracuse. When the game started back up, the run started.
Gorgui Dieng made 2 free throws. Luke Hancock gets fouled on another 3 pointer, and makes all 3. It’s a 5-0 run now. Syracuse misses a shot, gets the rebound, and turns it over. Montrezl Harrell misses 2 free throws, but we get the rebound and Russ hits a 3. It’s an 8-0 run and now we have cut the lead in half, just like that. Michael Carter-Williams goes to the line for 2, so I am thinking this will end the run, and maybe it will be a 10-2 run, better than nothing! Nope, he misses both! After a Russ Smith 3 pointer goes in and out, Stephan Van Treese, Mr. Hustle himself, is there for the tip in. The Cards were now on that 10-0 run, and it only took 1 minute and 45 seconds!
Little did we know that the 10-0 run would be just a glimpse of the run we were going on. We ended up going on a 27-3 run and took an 8 point lead with 8:51 to go in the game. In just 7 minutes, the whole game was turned around. By the time James Southerland came back into the game, it was too late. The Cards stormed all the way back, took the lead, and then built on that lead.
There were so many great performances from our players in this game. Obviously, the big one was Montrezl Harrell, who finished with a career high 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 big block on Michael Carter-Williams. From the first red-white scrimmage this year, I have thought he is every bit as good, if not better, than Chane Behanan. Now I don’t dislike Behanan. He is a Card. I like all of our players. He was MVP of the Regional last year on our run to the Final 4. However, there isn’t that 1 thing that he does so much better than Montrezl that should have him playing a lot more minutes. They are both big bodies, and I always wanted to see them maybe split time. The difference to me is this: when Chane gets the ball down low (if he catches it), he will power dribble, and most likely go up for a lay up. When Montrezl gets the ball anywhere near the basket, he is going to try to tear the rim down. Coach Pitino even said that Chane takes some plays off. I don’t think Harrell ever does that. He is a beast, and his motor is always running. Again, I like them both. But I have just always wanted to see more of Montrezl this season.
Luke Hancock played great last night. He drew a foul on 2 three pointers, making 5 of the 6 free throws. He forced turnovers, dove for loose balls, and hit a 3 to get the Cards started in the 1st half. He finished with 10 points and 6 rebounds, but I think his biggest plays are those that don’t show up on the stat sheet. I am not sure we make that comeback without him.
Kevin Ware also was big in his 13 minutes of action. He had 9 points, including a big alley-oop from Peyton Siva. He was 2-2 from the three-point line, and those were big. He also played great defense, harassing Michael Carter-Williams. I am really happy with how he has turned his season around. I was certain when he got suspended that we would not see him back at UofL. I think he has accepted his role on the team. He brings so much energy off the bench and has become a crucial piece to our team. We now have a sub for Siva or Russ for a few minutes at a time.
I predicted before the game that Peyton Siva would break his personal curse against Syracuse, play a great game, and win the MVP of the tournament. In the first half, that looked like a bad prediction. Siva looked like he wanted no part of even shooting the ball against the Orange and their length. He would get to the middle of the lane, and still not take that 8-10 footer. He had a completely different 2nd half as well. He finished with 11 points, 8 assists, 4 steals, and only 2 turnovers. He was 5-6 from the free throw line also. He looked much more comfortable in the 2nd half. At the top of the zone, he would just dish to Gorgui or Montrezl at the free throw line, and from there the zone was busted. I was very happy to see him turn his game around. He will be a huge part of our tournament run for sure.
I can’t talk about all of these guys, and not mention the big fella. Gorgui Dieng almost had a quiet triple-double. Yes, I just said that. He finished with 9 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists! He was amazing in the middle of the zone. When he got the ball, he either made the right pass, or knocked down that jump shot if the defense left him wide open. Like I said, once Siva got the ball in the middle, the zone was done as long as the correct play was made, and Gorgui usually did make that correct play.
It was an awesome game to watch. And it will go down in history because of the magnitude of what it meant in the storied tradition of Big East basketball. We now move on to Selection Sunday. Go Cards!