The BIG EAST had 11 teams hit the hardwood on Saturday for five conference games and one nonconference battle. The day saw Syracuse and Pittsburgh remain perfect in conference play, while Louisville came back from 18 down with five minutes to play to edge Marquette.
Preston Knowles found Kyle Kuric wide open underneath the basket with four seconds left to complete an 18-point come-from-behind win as No. 18/17 Louisville (14-3, 3-1 BIG EAST) edged Marquette (12-6, 3-2 BIG EAST) in what was the game of the day in the BIG EAST on Saturday. The Cardinals trailed by 18 points with just over five minutes remaining in the game, and appeared to be headed for their second-straight BIG EAST loss before rallying for the victory. Knowles finished with a game-high 17 points (15 in the second half) including hitting five 3-pointers. The senior hit four from downtown in less the five minutes during the comeback.
The Golden Eagles made just two field goals over the final 5:44 but had a chance to steal the victory at the end when Jimmy Butler missed a fade-away jumper from the free-throw line at the buzzer. Butler finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, while Darius Johnson-Odom led MU with 16 points.
No. 4/4 Syracuse (18-0, 5-0 BIG EAST) remained one of the four unbeaten teams in the country with a convincing 67-52 win over No. 25/rv Cincinnati (16-2, 3-2 BIG EAST) at the Carrier Dome. The Bearcats erased an early double-digit deficit to trail by only two at the half, but the Orange went on a 16-0 run to start the second frame to silence Cincinnati and pull-away for the win. Center Rick Jackson notched his 11th double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds for SU. The Bearcats were led by Dion Dixon’s 18 points while Sean Kilpatrick added 11. UC went cold to start the second half, hitting just two of their first 20 shots. There is cause for concern for the Orange, who lost leading scorer Kris Joseph with 6:27 left in the first half when his head slammed into the Carrier Dome floor. It has not been determined whether Joseph will be ready for Monday night’s showdown with No. 5/5 Pittsburgh.
No. 5/5 Pittsburgh (17-1, 5-0 BIG EAST) cruised to a 74-53 win over Seton Hall (8-10, 2-4 BIG EAST) to set up a battle with 4th ranked Syracuse on Monday night. Center Gary McGhee led the Panthers with 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Pitt continued to show its depth, with nine players scoring in the game including five with eight or more points. The Panthers maintained a double-digit lead through most of the game, moving to 50-1 in their past 51 home games while starting 5-0 in BIG EAST play for the fourth time in school history. Seton Hall was led by Herb Pope’s 15 points and 10 boards.
No. 10/9 Connecticut (14-2, 3-2 BIG EAST) won its third-straight game, defeating DePaul (6-11, 0-5 BIG EAST) 82-62 on the road. Guard Kemba Walker, the nation’s second leading scorer, poured in a game-high 31 points on 10-of-17 shooting to lead the Huskies. Walker had 22 in the first half, while freshman Jeremy Lamb and sophomore Alex Oriakhi notched 13 and 11 points respectively. The Huskies never trailed in the game as they grabbed their fourth-straight victory over the Blue Demons. Cleveland Melvin led DePaul with 25 points and 12 rebounds for his first career double-double.
No. 22/19 Georgetown (13-5, 2-4 BIG EAST) halted a three-game skid with a 74-65 win over Rutgers (10-7, 1-4 BIG EAST). The Hoyas’ backcourt of Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark combined for 53 points to lead GU. Freeman had a monster second half, scoring 18 of his 25 points in the final 20 minutes while adding nine rebounds. The Scarlet Knights stayed even with the Hoyas for much of the first half and trailed 31-25 at the break. RU trailed by four with 10 minutes to play when Freeman took over. The Preseason BIG EAST Player of the Year scored nine points in a 14-7 run for the Hoyas that put the lead at 61-50 with 5:30 left. Rutgers was led by Gilvydas Biruta who scored 14 points and added six rebounds.
No. 7/7 Villanova (16-1, 4-0 BIG EAST) notched a 74-66 nonconference win over Maryland at the Wells Fargo Center. The Wildcats trailed by 12 points with under 10 minutes to play, but responded with a 19-0 run to notched the come-from-behind victory. Guard Corey Fisher scored eight of his 17 points during the run to help VU win its 11th-straight game. Guard Maalik Wayns led Villanova with 22 points while Antonio Pena had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Villanova held the Terrapins without a field goal for 7:14 during the run in the second half, as eight different players scored for the Wildcats.
Two conference games are slated for Sunday noon tip offs. St. John’s hosts Notre Dame at Madison Square Garden which will be the second meeting between the two squads in eight days. Either Providence or USF will get its first league win when the two teams play at the Sun Dome. West Virginia steps out of conference play and hosts Purdue on CBS at 1:30 p.m.