Louisville Beats Cincinnati 50-44 to Capture Big East Title, NCAA Berth

Chris Smith scored 15 points to lead the seventh-seeded University of Louisville to a 50-44 win over No. 4 University of Cincinnati in the Big East men’s basketball championship final.

Louisville will make its sixth straight appearance in the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament which begins March 13. The 64 teams will learn their rankings today as the postseason schedule is released.

Kyle Kuric had 13 points for the Cardinals, who won their second title since joining the conference in the 2005-2006 season. Louisville won its first championship in 2009.

“The problem with this game is, Cincinnati and Louisville know each other too well,” Cardinals coach Rick Pitino told reporters. “The coaches know each other, they’ve worked together. So you can’t run one play without the coaches on the other side yelling it out. So defense has to win it.”

Cashmere Wright had a game-high 16 points for the Bearcats (24-10), who were making their first appearance in a championship game.

The Cardinals (26-9) stopped the Bearcats with six minutes left in the first half, allowing only two Cincinnati points to take a 24-14 halftime advantage last night at Madison Square Garden in New York.

In the second half, Smith’s 3-pointer gave the Cardinals a 44-28 lead with just over eight minutes to play. The Bearcats then went on a 16-4 run, with Wright contributing nine points, to tighten the score to 48-44 with two minutes, 35 seconds left in the game.

Peyton Siva, the tournament Most Valuable Player, had 10 points for Louisville. He averaged 15 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals in the first three games of the Big East tournament.

“Nobody really expected us to even get this far,” Siva said. “It just feels good because a lot of people wrote us off. Coach P had a lot of faith in me. I’m very thankful for that. Everybody really showed a lot of heart today.”

The NCAA tournament begins with four teams playing in the first round in Dayton, Ohio. The contest ends with the final four teams playing for the national championship on March 31 and April 2 in New Orleans.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nancy Kercheval in Washington at nkercheval@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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