for this game

Cardinals claim Big East crown

Mar 11, 2012 - 6:45 AM New York, NY (Sports Network) - Chris Smith scored 15 points, Kyle Kuric had 13 and Louisville captured the Big East Tournament for the second time in four years Saturday with a 50-44 win over Cincinnati in the title game.

Peyton Siva added 10 points for the Cardinals (26-9), who will enter the NCAA Tournament next week off four straight wins.

"You could see how excited our guys were and how much the tournament means to us," said Cardinals coach Rick Pitino. "We wanted to come in here and start playing better basketball."

Cashmere Wright scored 16 points and JaQuon Parker added 10 for the Bearcats (24-10), who had a four-game winning streak snapped despite making a 16-4 run late in the second half to close a double-digit gap.

Cincinnati was coming off upsets over two ranked teams: No. 13 Georgetown and No. 2 Syracuse. The fourth-seeded Bearcats beat the top-seeded Orange by three in the semifinals Friday, but couldn't continue the run in their first-ever appearance in the Big East final.

In fact, Cincinnati had never made it past the quarterfinals since joining the conference for the 2005-06 season, the same year Louisville joined up.

Saturday's game was the first Big East final ever without at least one of the original members.

Louisville also won the title in 2009, beating Syracuse, and faced a familiar foe in Cincinnati. The schools are separated by only about 100 miles and Cincy coach Mick Cronin used to be an assistant under Pitino.

"This game was very difficult, not matter how much we tried to push the pace," said Pitino. "They know us as well as we know ourselves. We know they as well as they know themselves."

Cronin said he was happy for his former mentor, but regretted that his team didn't have its "best night."

"I'm very disappointed with my players because we didn't give our best," said Cronin.

Cincinnati shot just 24.1 percent and scored only 14 points in the first half to trail by 10 at the break. The Bearcats shot better than 59 percent in the second half, but never made up the deficit.

Louisville had a 12-point lead after Siva opened the second half with a jumper and the Cardinals went ahead by 16 later on when Smith's three-pointer made it 44-28.

Cincy clawed back with its 16-4 run, trimming the deficit to just four points, 48-44, on Parker's layup with 2:35 remaining. But the Bearcats missed their last three shots, as well as two free throws, down the stretch as Louisville hung on.

Game Notes

Cincinnati out-shot Louisville 39.2 percent to 35.4...The Bearcats went just 1-of-7 on free throws while the Cardinals were 11-for-12.