Four of the five BIG EAST games on Saturday were decided by six points or less. The day also saw Cincinnati, Connecticut and Villanova all fall for the first time this season at home. Four games came down to the final minute, including double overtime thriller between Louisville and Connecticut.
Guard Peyton Siva scored 19 points and dished out seven assists to lead No. 23/19 Louisville (17-4, 6-2 BIG EAST) past No. 5/5 Connecticut 79-78 in double overtime at Gampel Pavilion. Siva was key in the overtime periods including scoring on two drives in the final minute. The Huskies led by as many as nine in the second half, but the Cardinals were able to mount a comeback and tied the game on a Siva layup with 29 seconds left. UConn (17-3, 5-3 BIG EAST) was led by Shabazz Napier, who had 18 of his 23 points after halftime, while Jeremy Lamb added 21 and Kemba Walker had 20. Louisville started the second overtime with 3s by Preston Knowles and Kyle Kuric to take a 75-69 lead. Connecticut slowly chipped away, and got within one with less than 10 seconds to play. Walker had a shot to win it with a long 3 but the ball rimmed out. It was the first home loss of the year for the Huskies.
No. 21/20 Georgetown (16-5, 5-4 BIG EAST) won its fourth straight game, beating No. 8/7 Villanova 69-66 at the Wells Fargo Center. Guard Austin Freeman keyed the victory with a 30 point, six assist effort. Freeman scored 10 of the Hoyas’ final 12 points and recorded the assist on the other two to help the squad edge the Wildcats. Villanova got within one at 65-64 after a pair of free throws by Maalik Wayns with 33 seconds left. That’s when Freeman fired a bullet pass through a trap at halfcourt that found Nate Lubick under the basket for a dunk with 24 seconds left. Wayns hit on another drive with 16 seconds remaining, and Freeman drained a pair of free throws to put the lead at three. The Wildcats had a chance to tie, but Antonio Pena’s 3-pointer just rolled off the rim and Dominic Cheek could not get the final shot off in time. Wayns and Corey Fisher each had 15 points to lead VU, which dropped its second consecutive game.
No. 2/2 Pittsburgh (20-2, 8-1 BIG EAST) became the first BIG EAST team to hit the 20-win mark after holding off Rutgers 65-52. The Panthers overcame shooting a season-low 35.6 percent from the floor, but made up for that by shooting 28-of-35 (80 percent) from the free-throw line. Pitt scored 12 of its final 15 points from the charity strip. Ashton Gibbs led the way for the Panthers with 24 points, including a long 3-pointer with 55 seconds remaining that put the visitors up four and essentially iced the game. Rutgers (12-9, 3-6 BIG EAST) had three players score in 12 points, including Jonthan Mitchell, Mike Coburn and Robert Lumpkins. The Scarlet Knights came within one multiple times in the final two minutes, and had a chance to tie the game at the end but Miller’s long shot was off the mark.
Marquette(14-8, 5-4 BIG EAST) handed Syracuse its fourth straight loss, beating the Orange 76-70 at the Bradley Center. The Golden Eagles got 25 points from forward Jae Crowder to lead the charge. Marquette led by 11 at the break, but Syracuse (18-4, 5-4 BIG EAST) slowly chipped away and erased the deficit with a 25-14 run over that was capped by a layup by Scoop Jardine to knot the contest at 56 with 8:18 remaining. Jardine had his first collegiate double-double with 13 points and 13 assists. Syracuse brought the game even on multiple occasions, but never led in the game. The latest tie came on a Kris Joseph jumper with just over two minutes remaining. That’s when Marquette got a huge 3-pointer from Jimmy Butler with the shot clock winding down to give the Golden Eagles the lead for good. Darius Johnson-Odom put the game away on the next possession, knocking down a long 3 from the wing at the end of the shot clock to put MU up six.
West Virginia (14-6, 5-3 BIG EAST) went on the road to hand Cincinnati its first home loss, 66-55 at Fifth Third Arena. John Flowers and Joe Mazzulla each scored 16 points to lead the Mountaineers in head coach Bob Huggins’ return to Cincinnati. West Virginia outrebounded the Bearcats 42-30 in the contest. Cincinnati (18-4, 5-4 BIG EAST) was led by 24 points from Cashmere Wright, who scored 20 of those in the second half. WVU took control on the game with a 19-5 run in the late stages of the second half to go up 57-43. Cincinnati would not get closer than 11 the rest of the way.
Two games dot the BIG EAST schedule on Sunday, beginning with a nonconference matchup between St. John’s and No. 3/3 Duke at Madison Square Garden on CBS at 1 p.m. Eastern. Seton Hall then takes on Providence at 3 p.m. on ESPN3.com.