Ohio State beat Syracuse 77-70 to end the Orange’s historic season, and the final score played out roughly like we all predicted. But the game itself was dictated by the officiating, a sour end to an incredible season. SU clearly missed Fab Melo as Jared Sullinger had 19 points in limited minutes and couldn’t be stopped in the clutch. Deshaun Thomas had 9 big rebounds and OSU outrebounded the Orange by 13. Aaron Craft was pesky enough to disrupt the offensive flow and SU could never make its major run.
This game unfolded in a way no one could imagine because the men in stripes became a huge factor. Here’s sadly our final Fizz 5 this basketball season:
1. Yes, the officiating was terrible.
While most fans gripe often about the officiating, the referees became a major factor in this game and that is a problem. They were bad both ways (with a favorable lean towards Ohio State), and dumptrucked the flow of the game with two of the worst calls you’ll ever see.
OSU’s Deshaun Thomas got trapped at the free throw line and tried to make a miracle pass as he got caught in the air. He threw the ball out of bounds. No one touched it. It went out of bounds. It was as clear as day. However, the ball was given to Ohio State. The charge call with 6:28 left in the first half on Brandon Triche was also an atrocity. That turned out to be a 4-point swing. Not only was Thomas nowhere close to being in position, but he might have been on the circle.
Regardless, Thomas slid in and was still moving his back foot while falling to the ground. This is the second year in a row Triche has gotten screwed in Syracuse’s final game on a block/charge call. Last year Brandon was injured when he was undercut by a Marquette player and inexplicably called for a charge. This year, it didn’t cost him the game, but instead the bucket he made, a free throw he should have had and Jim Boeheim his first technical in 3 years.
The block/charge rule in college basketball is a total joke. The officials don’t know how to call it. Most of them can’t call it right even if given a chance with slow motion replay. It should be taken out of the game. Running in front of a guy who’s going full speed and getting airborn isn’t defense. It’s dangerous for both guys and a shame it may take someone getting paralyzed on a fall for the rule to change. In the meantime it’s mucking up games and that should be enough.
2. You’re mad at Kris Joseph. You shouldn’t be as mad.
The senior played one hell of a defensive game in his final outing. He did a tremendous job of getting out on shooters and, more importantly, doubling down on Sullinger. Baye Keita did a really good job on him in the second half, but the guy’s an All-American for a reason. Joseph had 3 steals and forced Sullinger to pass back out more often than not.
But Joseph was again ineffective on the offensive end and turned the ball over four times. That’s a lot for anyone. For someone who doesn’t handle the ball that often in a “decision-making” role, that’s unacceptable. A few of those turnovers were in big spots. Despite his stellar defensive effort, K-Jo isn’t going to want to watch the film for a while.
3. Where was Scoop down the stretch?
It didn’t take long for Boeheim to be asked post-game why his 5th year senior spent most of the last 5 minutes on the bench. His response was simple and honest. Triche was the reason his team stayed close. Dion Waiters was the reason his team was still playing.
With those two on the floor, Boeheim’s only way to get Jardine in the game was to put Triche on the back line. With Sullinger down low, that just wasn’t feasible. Also, it would have taken the ball out of Waiters or Triche’s hands. Dion was off, but he showed at the end of the game with an enormous and-1 over Sullinger why he was playing. It was the right move. That doesn’t make it any easier for the senior to swallow.
Waiters had a tough night. He had no interest in talking to the media after the game and timed it so that he only had to answer 3 questions before the locker room closed. He was also banged up in this game. Dion did his damage from the free throw line in the first half, but not without taking a few hard falls. Waiters is built like a rock, but even if you bang a stone against a wall enough it will start to chip ever so slightly. He rolled an ankle fighting a screen, and it led to him rimming a potential and-1 flush on the next possession. With a good ankle that’s a 3-point play even with the foul.
He eventually picked up his 5th and walked off in disbelief. We all laughed when a reporter asked him who would be in the championship game (an all-time look of befuddlement followed), but that’s what Waiters believed. The thought of not winning a title never never crossed his mind.
As that reality sunk in, he was blunt about the refs. Dion said there were times he felt like SU was playing 5-on-8. Then the draft questions started. He said the loss made it harder to leave, but he has to sit down with his family and make his decision. Fizz Friend Pete Thamel of the New York Times wrote about how much Dion wants to buy his mom a house. Don’t be surprised if Dion’s mama has some new digs in early July.
5. This season was successful.
This depends on how you define success, but in basketball a great season should be one that has a reasonable ending. Not everyone can win a national title. This team was certainly capable of reaching the Final Four, but in a few weeks we’ll step back and collectively say that was a hell of a run.
If before the season you were told SU would go to the Elite 8 while going 34-3, you’d probably say good season, but not quite good enough. If you were told Fab Melo would be suspended twice, including for the NCAA tournament two days before it started, and SU would make the regional finals you’d be impressed. Add the drug report, the APR chatter, and the Bernie Fine scandal, it’s almost surreal SU was able to survive. It lost to a team that’s every bit as good as the Orange was in a game that was close to the bitter end.
It’s going to take a while, but eventually we’ll look back at the 2011-2012 season with a sense of satisfaction.
Posted: Craig Hoffman