Analysis: Cards win title with stingy defense

Louisville's outstanding defense proved the difference against Cincinnati Saturday night in the Big East championship game, as the Cardinals held the surging Bearcats to 3-14 three-point shooting.

Louisville (26-9) won their fourth game in four days 50-44 over Cincinnati to cap a memorable week in New York with their second Big East Tournament title. Stingy defense helped Louisville build a 16-point second half lead that the Cardinals hung onto in the final minutes. Here's instant analysis of the game:

IT WAS OVER WHEN: Yancy Gates three point attempt missed the mark with :17 seconds remaining with Louisville ahead by six. Cincinnati had another shot, but Cashmere Wright's meaningless jumper with three seconds left didn't fall either.

KEY STATS: 3-14
Cincinnati's three-point shooting propelled them past Syracuse in the semifinals, but Louisville was determined to stop the Bearcats outside the arch. In the first game between the two teams last month, Cincinnati out-scored Louisville by 30 points from the three-point line. Saturday night with the Big East championship on the line, Louisville extended their defense and limited Cincinnati to just 3 of 14 threes.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: On a night when defense ruled and both teams struggled to score in a slugfest championship game, Chris Smith provided enough offense for the Cardinals to cut down the Madison Square Garden nets. The senior guard led Louisville with 15 points, connecting on 6-10 shots. Smith was 3-6 from deep and 3 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal.

BIG PLAY: Having cut Louisville's 16 point lead to 48-44 in the final minute, Cincinnati's Jaquan Parker toed the foul line for two shots. Parker missed both attempts, then fouled Russ Smith on the rebound. Smith made both free throws to seal the deal for the Cards.

TURNING POINT: After Cincinnati cut Louisville's 10 point halftime lead to six midway through the second half, the Cardinals 10-0 run over the next three minutes provided enough cushion heading down the stretch. Louisville seniors Kyle Kuric, who started the run with three free throws, and Chris Smith, who finished it with a three pointer, provided the fuel.

TOP RESERVE Russ Smith missed 7 of his shots, but he delivered several crucial plays for Louisville, including the two free throws in the final seconds that finished off Cincinnati. Smith provided plenty of defensive energy off the bench, delivering three steals, while frustrating Justin Jackson into a critical offensive foul late in the game when the Bearcats were surging.


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