NEW YORK -- The Big East tournament comes to a close Saturday, in just about every possible sense, and two programs that won't be in any form of a Big East next season are vying to take home the title.

Such is the state of college basketball, but for a night the future itineraries of Syracuse and Louisville ran second to the potential for electricity one last time at Madison Square Garden.

"For this to be the last tournament of the Big East as it really is, as the power basketball conference that it is, it's pretty special," Louisville sharpshooter Luke Hancock said.

And that was before the Cardinals concocted a finish to remember, in an event that no one will ever forget. Louisville is the Big East tournament champion for the second year in a row, this time using smothering, kinetic defense to erase a 16-point deficit and post a 78-61 win over the Orange.

After back-to-back 3-pointers early in the second half, the Cardinals were down 45-29. They were listless, disjointed on offense. Syracuse appeared to be riding rediscovered mojo to the last Big East tournament title -- in th eleague's current incarnation anyway.

Then the Louisville defense descended like a suffocating wool blanket thrown on Syracuse, followed by repeated stabbings. The Cardinals went nuclear, starting with a 27-3 blast and eventually outscoring Syracuse 44-10 over a little less than 14 minutes.

They forced Syracuse into 13 second-half turnovers and held the Orange without a single field goal for a stretch of 11-plus minutes.

The end of the massive run put Louisville ahead eight, and Syracuse never straightened itself out, and a Wayne Blackshear 3-point goal put the icing on it with two minutes left, making it an 18-point game.

Montrezl Harrell came off the bench to lead the Cardinals with 20 points, with Peyton Siva adding 11. C.J. Fair led Syracuse with 21.

The Carrier Dome actually once hosted the Big East tournament, when the event was in its infancy. It felt like 1981 all over again at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, the place saturated in orange, and the roof rattling with every Syracuse thrust and parry.

Matters reached full roar quickly, after C.J. Fair and James Southerland 3-pointers opened the night and fueled an 8-0 Orange run out of the gate. Louisville's offense was slapdash from the start, with misses on 11 of the first 14 attempts, but Syracuse's regression to the mean meant the Cardinals hung close.

The Orange were at less than 40 percent shooting themselves when a Kevin Ware 3-pointer drew Louisville within four. Then Carter-Williams created some space.

The lanky sophomore point guard scored nine straight points to spur a percussive 13-2 run by Syracuse, starting with a runner and featuring a banked 3-point shot. Fair capped the burst with a corner 3-pointer and what was a sluggish, tight affair blew up into a 35-20 Orange lead late in the first half.

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