NEW YORK (AP) -After playing nearly five games in four days, Jonny Flynn and 18th-ranked Syracuse came up 20 minutes short when it mattered the most.
Fifth-ranked Louisville took advantage of the Orange's weary legs in the second half of the Big East tournament championship game Saturday night, the tired and bedraggled lot unable to keep up with the fresher Cardinals in a 76-66 loss that ended one remarkable run.
Flynn, whose inspired play put most of the fans inside Madison Square Garden firmly behind him over the course of the week, left the game with just over a minute to go, sitting down on the bench near coach Jim Boeheim with his head resting on his clasped hands.
Teammate Eric Devendorf sat a few seats over, leaning back in his chair, the weight of the Orange's epic six-overtime thriller against No. 3 Connecticut two nights earlier and their overtime victory over West Virginia in the semifinals finally allowed to set in.
``I told our players, we won this thing the last two times we were in the finals, and I'm just as proud, or maybe even a little more proud, of what we did this week in New York,'' Boeheim said. ``Even though we didn't win. Some people may not believe that, but I do.''
Flynn was the tournament's most valuable player, only the fourth to play on the losing team and first since Georgetown's Victor Page in 1996. Flynn played 67 of a possible 70 minutes against UConn and all 45 against the Mountaineers, before scoring 11 points in 34 minutes against Louisville.
When he received the Dave Gavitt Trophy following the game, he shared a brief moment with retiring Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese while thousands of fans still in the stands - many of them wearing Louisville's cardinal and black - roared their approval.
``I was so very proud of my team for battling the whole week. I think we really came together,'' Flynn said. ``We really put in a lot of work and made it farther than a lot of people thought we would.''
For a while it looked as if the Orange would end the tournament in the most fitting way possible, beating the Cardinals up and down the court in the first half and building a 38-30 lead.
room, pushing the tempo as much as possible.
Syracuse couldn't keep up, even though Boeheim finally rested his star guard for a short period in the second half. The Cardinals' harassing defense and brutally efficient offense was too much to handle after the marathon games the Orange had already endured.
``Five years from now, there's going to be two things people remember about this Syracuse basketball season. Two and only two,'' Boeheim said. ``They're going to remember the Syracuse-Connecticut game and they're going to remember what we do in the (NCAA) tournament. That's all that they'll remember.''
It's something that even Louisville coach Rick Pitino will remember.
``It's not easy to do what they did, and they did it again tonight most of the game, and sooner or later your legs are going to give out,'' he said. ``But they were brilliant throughout the stretch and our guys just have a lot of respect for their basketball team.''

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