The No. 20 Bears overcame a 22-point deficit Friday to take home the Battle 4 Atlantis title against the Louisville Cardinals, 66-63 in Paradise Islands, Bahamas.
Junior forward Jonathan Motley led the Bears from the start of the tournament, finishing the tournament with 60 points and was awarded the Most Valuable Player award.
“We have been a second half team all tournament, but that one I guess took it to extremes. I thought first half Louisville pounded us on the glass and towards the end of it half to get a little rhythm,” said head coach Scott Drew. “In the second half we had the chance to get back and gain some points. We kept missing some easy shots, and then finally the guys stuck with it. That is why it always takes a team to win a tournament. We said we believe in our bench and they really came through and gave us a huge lift tonight. King [McClure] got us going with that spurt and from there Motley took over down the stretch. It is a much better feeling when you are winning.”
Struggling to get things going early in the game, the Bears found themselves down by as many as 22, and 39-22 going into the half.
However, the Bears were no strangers to being down at the half as they trailed VCU by eight in their tournament opener on Wednesday and by three against No. 24 Michigan State on Thursday.
Coming back from the half, the Bears (6-0) found themselves down 20, but were able to chip away at the lead slowly. It was a 21-5 run with just under 10 minutes remaining in regulation, led by Motley that gave the Bears the victory.
“I am thankful for my teammates for getting me in the right positions to score,” Motley said. “I couldn’t do it by myself. It takes a team to win. We played harder than them and we got the W.”
However, the effort was not just a one person show, as sophomore guard King McClure scored 15 points in the second half. Junior forward Terry Maston also aided the Bears with 10 points in the second half. As a team in the second half, the Bears shot 65 percent from the field in rout to their 66-63 upset victory over No. 10 Louisville.
“A lot of times when teams are down like that, they break apart. We came together. At halftime we were in the locker room and we said we have been here before,” McClure said. “We have been in situations like this. We came back and started chipping away and saw the lead go down. We started to believe in ourselves. We are coming together and we are all in.”
Donovan Mitchell led the Cardinals with 17 points, but it wasn’t enough to get past the motivated Bears team. The Cardinals went nine for 27 in the second half, with a shooting percentage of 33 percent.
“I saw it in their legs,” said Cardinal head coach Rick Pitino. “Anytime a team doesn’t get in the right defense, the right press, you know it’s mental and physical fatigue. You see it right away. But I didn’t make the substitutions. … It’s my fault. I saw they were fatigued. I was just hoping the timeouts could overcome it but it didn’t.”
The Bears will be back in action 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Ferrell Center as they play host to Sam Houston State.