NEW YORK – Russ Smith scored 20 points and Peyton Siva added 12 to lead No. 4 Louisville to a 69-57 victory over No. 24 Notre Dame on Friday night, the third straight year the Cardinals beat the Irish in the semifinals of the Big East tournament.
Siva, the tournament MVP last year when Louisville won its second Big East title, had six assists and seven steals, which tied the tournament record in another solid defensive outing by the Cardinals.
Second-seeded Louisville (28-5), one of the Big Easts tri-champions in the regular season. will face fifth-seeded and 19th-ranked Syracuse in the championship game tonight at Madison Square Garden.
This will be Louisvilles fourth championship game appearance in the last five years. The Cardinals also won the title in 2009 and they beat Syracuse in that game.
Jack Cooley and Jerian Grant both had 14 points for sixth-seeded Notre Dame, which was making its fourth straight and last semifinal appearance. The Irish (25-9) are heading for the Atlantic Coast Conference next season and they will leave the Big East without ever having reached the title game.
The Cardinals, who reached the Final Four last season, did what they have done so well in their nine-game winning streak, play defense at a level coach Rick Pitinos teams usually do at the end of the season. In the first eight games of the winning streak Louisville held its opponents to 54.2 points on 36.4 percent shooting from the field while forcing 17.9 turnovers with 10.4 of them being steals.
Friday night looked the same.
Notre Dame shot 36.5 percent from the field (19 of 52), including going 7 of 21 from three-point range. In their wins over Rutgers and Marquette the Irish went 17 of 37 from beyond the arc (45.9 percent). Notre Dame committed 16 turnovers and with Siva leading the way the Cardinals had 11 steals.
Gorgui Dieng had eight points, 12 rebounds and four blocks for Louisville.
This was Louisvilles second win over Notre Dane this season. The Irish won 104-101 in an epic five-overtime game, while the Cardinals also won at home, 73-57.
No. 19 SYRACUSE 58, No. 5 GEORGETOWN 55, OT: Brandon Triche scored the go-ahead basket early in overtime and Syracuse advanced to the championship game with a victory in the final conference clash of their storied heavyweight rivalry.
The fifth-seeded Orange (26-8) will make their 15th appearance in the tournament title game and go for their sixth crown tonight at Madison Square Garden.
Triche, James Southerland and backup center Baye Moussa Keita all had 13 points for Syracuse, trying to close its Big East tenure with one more championship before bolting for the ACC next season.
The Orange held top-seeded Georgetown (25-6) to 22 percent shooting from three-point range with their trademark 2-3 zone and got a big game from their bench to avenge two previous losses to the Hoyas this season.