I was in too much pain and anger to write this after the game so I decided to sleep on it and maybe I would feel better about it in the morning. Didn't turn out that way, still crushed.
This game was marred by officiating. Don't skip the rest of this paragraph thinking it's just going to be a bitter Syracuse fan bitching and being sour grapes. I am not saying there was a conspiracy against the Orange. I'm saying the game was poorly officiated because it was called way too tightly. There were some phantom calls, but mostly it was just every tiny bit of contact was a whistle. 48 fouls in all. Five fouls in the first two minutes of the second half. It was just too much, and it had more of an adverse effect on Syracuse than it did on Ohio State. Partially because SU had less depth up front, partially because Ohio State adjusted better. Sullinger allowed two easy layups in the second half because he backed off on defense. Syracuse never made an adjustment. But it also hurt the Orange because they were trailing and wanting to play an aggressive trap, and every time they did an Ohio State player stepped into a Syracuse player and they called a foul.
But there were other reasons Syracuse lost. Offensive rebounding hurt again. Ohio State had 13 offensive rebounds.
Dion Waiters picked a bad time to have his worst game of the season. 2 for 8 from the field and almost zero other contributions. He plays aggressive defense and only played 20http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif minutes due to foul trouble. It was likely his last game for Syracuse.
We know Kris Joseph won't be back, and he went out with a whimper as well. I really think he regressed this year as other players improved and took more of the scoring load away from him.
Scoop Jardine however ended his career on a better note. He didn't play great but he made some big shots and his drives created some easy baskets for Christmas and Keita. For five years Scoop has given everything he had to this program. And like Shane, I just want Scoop on my team still.
Syracuse also lost because they missed lots of layups early. Then in the second half they took some bad shots without passing and working the offense. And then came the finishing stretch late in the game.
Sullinger had just made 2 free throws to put Ohio State back up by 4. The next three possessions were three turnovers, one by Scoop and 2 by Kris Joseph. Ohio State opened it back to 7 with 3 minutes left and the game was over.
I really wish Syracuse would have driven the ball into the lane more. It was working because Sullinger was backing off to avoid pikcing up his third foul, but they got away from it.
Sullinger is awesome. He's a little like Tim Duncan. He really knows how to use the glass on his post moves (like that one he banked, hit the rim, bounced off the backbohttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifard again and in) and that makes him very effective.
Aaron Craft is a total pest. Not a good player just a total pain in the ass. He fouled out and I thought he could have been called for even more fouls.
It's a shame that one of the greatest seasons in school history had to end without a National Championship, without even a Final Four appearance. And it's even more disappointing because of all the what ifs, especially what if Fab Melo had just been able to stay eligible.
But as I discussed before the tournament (and before Melo's suspension) this was a great season. It was very enjoyable to dominate the entire country all year. It was great to have the longest stretch at number one we've ever had. It was great to reload the RPI page and see Syracuse on top for basically the entire season. It was great to watch Scoop's last hurrah, to watch Waiters become a star, to live and die with every chucked 3 by James Southerland. And it was fun to watch the development of Fab Melo, while it lasted.
It was great so beat UNC-Asheville despite all the internet hate. It was great to dominate Kansas State in the second half. And it was great to survive Wisconsin, a game where they played to the maximum of their potential and Syracuse was just a little bit better.
The 2003 team is of course the best team in school history. 1987 and 1996 are special. But this season will also be special to me for the wonderful journey these players took me on. Even if we didn't reach the destination.