There were six Big East basketball games yesterday featuring the Louisville Cardinals hosting the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Syracuse facing St. John's Red Storm at Madison Square Garden, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish hosting the Marquette Warriors, the Georgetown Hoyas hosting the South Florida Bulls, and the Cincinnati Bearcats hosting the DePaul Blue Demons.
No. 25 Louisville 78 Rutgers 66 Louisville continued its ascent from a 2-4 start to Big East play, winning its fourth straight game, this time at home over Rutgers. The Cardinals were led by the stellar play of true freshman power forward Chane Behanan. Behanan started the game 10 for 10 from the field (most of them dunks) and finished the game with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Louisville continued to struggle from three-point range, hitting just 4 of 12 shots, but inside the arc, the Cardinals were gold. Despite turning the ball over 18 times, and Rutgers hitting 10 three-point shots, Louisville was able to maintain a solid ten point lead for most of the second half. Rutgers coach Mike Rice, who has complained all year about the officiating, was ejected late in the first half when he objected to a missed foul call. The loss dropped Rutgers to 12-12 and 4-7 in Big East play).
No. 2 Syracuse 95 St. John's 70 The Syracuse Orange looked every bit the dominant team they were earlier this season in a 25 point dominating win over St. John's in Madison Square Garden. Fab Melo returned from his suspension due to academic issues with a career high 14 points. The Orange shot a blistering 55.7% from the field and in yet another sign of the team's depth, had five players in double figures, three of which came off of the bench. The Orange now have a two game lead on the rest of the Big East with the win.
Notre Dame 76 No. 15 Marquette 59 No one understands how, but Notre Dame keeps winning games against the upper half of the Big East. The Irish already have wins over Syracuse, Louisville, and Connecticut. Saturday, they added a win over second place Marquette, and did so in dominating fashion. Freshman Pat Connaughton had 23 points, including hitting 5 of 8 three-point attempts, and 11 rebounds to lead Notre Dame to the win. As a teas, the Irish shot 50% from the floor and held Marquette to just 39.6% shooting. Marquette was especially cold from three, hitting just 2 of 13. Notre Dame, picked by few to compete in the Big East this year, is now in fourth place in the conference and would enjoy a double-bye in the Big East Tournament if the season ended today.
No. 14 Georgetown 75 South Florida 45 - South Florida has been one of the better feel good stories of the first half of the Big East season. After successfully winning six conference games and winning their fair share of games against the league's lower half (something they previously had not been able to accomplish), The Bulls looked to win a game against one of the conference's better teams in Georgetown. It didn't happen. Georgetown completely smothered the Bulls offense. In one stretch, Georgetown forced a turnover on nine straight South Florida possessions. The Hoyas held the Bulls scoreless for an eleven minute stretch in the first half. They held the Bulls to just 31% shooting, while efficiently having 16 assists to just 9 turnovers of their own.
Connecticut 69 Seton Hall 46 In its first game since Jim Calhoun's leave of absence due to spinal stenosis, the Connecticut Huskies got healthy themselves, dominating the reeling Seton Hall Pirates. The win snapped a four game losing streak for UConn. Ryan Boatright scored 19, Jeremy Lamb scored 17, and Alex Oriakhi dropped in 10 off the bench to lead the effort. The Huskies defense was smothering, holding Seton Hall to just 25% shooting for the game. Andre Drummond blocked 7 shots and without Herb Pope in the middle for Seton Hall, the Pirates were simply outmanned in the middle. At 5-5, the Huskies have the teeth of the Big East schedule in front of them and could still find a way to battle into the top 4 spots in the conference. After a promising 15-2 start, the Pirates have now lost six consecutive Big East games and are quickly sliding off of the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Cincinnati 74 DePaul 66 - It wasn't pretty, but Cincinnati found a way to grind through the DePaul full-court press defense en route to a 74-66 win that was in doubt until late in the second half. The Bearcats got 16 points from Sean Kilpatrick and Dion Dixon, while Yancy Gates and Cashmere Wright added 11 each. Despite outrebounding the Bearcats, the Blue Demons turned the ball over 18 times and allowed 10 steals, which led to multiple scores in transition for Cincinnati. The win halted a three game skid for Cincinnati, after it had rebounded nicely from the Xavier game marred by the fight. The Bearcats improved to 6-4 in Big East play and join a glut of teams essentially equidistant from last place and first place in the conference.