MBB : BOSTON RUINS: Syracuse’s dream season cut short by Ohio State in Elite Eight

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Comments Published on March 24, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact Mark: mcooperj@syr.edu | @mark_cooperjrcenter_img BOSTON – Half a hallway separated the dichotomy. A short walk provided the distance between two entrances, one of unreached goals and another of still-achievable dreams.Past the first entrance, the Syracuse locker room, was silence. Dead silence. Dion Waiters sat with a towel over his head, avoiding the media at all costs. A sobbing Scoop Jardine hugged C.J. Fair as Jardine attempted to come to grips with the conclusion of his Orange career. Kris Joseph spoke with sniffles in between sentences.‘I just can’t believe it’s over,’ he said.Further down the hall, past the second doorway, was exultation. The Ohio State locker room was euphoric, filled with East Regional championship paraphernalia and smiles abound. Lenzelle Smith Jr., stitches above his right eye, said he was in pain, but his wide grin showed no agony. Deshaun Thomas wore his championship hat backward with a piece of the recently clipped net hanging off the plastic snaps.The Buckeyes’ run continues to New Orleans for the Final Four. But Syracuse’s dream ended in Boston. Though it was a close game that at times in the second half was within one possession, the Orange trailed for the final 18:16. Syracuse threatened Ohio State’s lead, melting a 10-point deficit down to one or two occasions, but did not make the shots it needed to pull ahead in a 77-70 loss in front of 19,026 in the TD Garden on Saturday. Top-seeded Syracuse (34-3) entered this game as an underdog to the No. 2 Buckeyes (31-7), and after 40 minutes, left a loser.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text‘We got 10 down. We made an unbelievable comeback, got it to one,’ head coach Jim Boeheim said. ‘All year we’ve been able to make a play in that situation, and we just didn’t.’The defeat concludes one of the most successful and tumultuous seasons in program history. Syracuse overcame the adversity of molestation allegations against Bernie Fine, the ineligibility of Fab Melo for three regular-season games and the NCAA Tournament, and reports of failure to follow university athletic drug policy in the last decade to win 34 games.There was just too much to overcome against the Buckeyes.The Orange’s 35.7 first-half shooting percentage kept it from taking advantage of Jared Sullinger’s foul trouble and could not beat a Buckeyes team at full strength in the final 20 minutes. Sullinger led Ohio State with 19 points and seven rebounds, 15 points coming in the second half.In the first half, Sullinger picked up two fouls in the first six minutes, one on the offensive end and one defensively. He departed for the final 13:42 of the first half with Ohio State leading 13-11. But Syracuse failed to capitalize.‘We could have gotten to the basket more and made some more layups,’ James Southerland said. When the Orange did get to the hoop, it fumbled away its opportunities. Joseph, Jardine, Waiters and Brandon Triche shot a combined 5-of-20 in the first half.Meanwhile, Syracuse also committed 12 first-half fouls. Boeheim was on the referees all half and received a technical foul with 6:28 left.Despite Sullinger playing just six minutes, the game was tied at halftime.‘I just thought we lost a little offensive patience in the first half,’ Boeheim said. ‘I thought we forced some shots in some situations when we should have been a little bit more patient. I think our offense just hurt us tonight.’Joseph and Waiters, SU’s two leading scorers, shot 6-of-19 (31.6 percent) for the game.With Sullinger back on the court, Ohio State asserted itself and took command of the game. He scored four straight points, including a miraculous hook shot over Joseph to put the Buckeyes up 45-36. One free throw later, OSU had its largest lead of the game.Syracuse needed to make a run to save its season.‘We knew we were going to make a run and we did,’ Jardine said.Back-to-back drives and layups from Jardine brought the Orange within 52-50. Two minutes later, Triche received a pass at the top of the key and drilled a triple to bring SU within 55-54 with 6:52 left.A new hop in their step, Triche and Jardine backpedaled into the 2-3 zone, grinning and clapping. They could smell the lead that had eluded them for most of the half.It just was not enough.‘If we would have taken the lead once I think we would have won this game,’ Jardine said.Ohio State stretched its lead back to 60-55. Joseph drove to the hoop from the left wing, but he fell into William Buford on the baseline and dribbled the ball out of bounds. Sensing a missed opportunity, he grasped the ball with both hands and held it to his mouth, biting into it in anger.Joseph made an errant pass on SU’s next possession, off Triche’s hand out of bounds. Smith made a rainbow floater over Rakeem Christmas to push OSU’s lead to seven and silence the majority of the crowd in orange.Syracuse cut the lead to three with 37 seconds to go, but Ohio State made 11-of-12 free throws in the final minute.Smith and Sullinger hugged near the 3-point line as Ohio State continued its run from preseason top-5 team to the Final Four. Meanwhile, Waiters sat on the bench with a towel over his head, and the Orange, another preseason top-5 team, trudged off the court.SU had the most successful regular season in program history, astoundingly enduring one of the most controversial seasons off the court. But it was a postseason cut short.‘It’s heartbreaking,’ Waiters said. ‘Honestly, I’ve never been a part of a team like this and it’s sad, and it’s something I’m not going to be able to get over for a while.’mcooperj@syr.edulast_img

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