Lost amidst the anger toward the officiating, the frustration with a missed opportunity, and the emptiness no Final Four, is the simple sadness of the Syracuse players. This was easily Jim Boeheim’s most chaotic and wild season ever, and raw emotions filled the press conference and locker room Saturday night, feelings bottled up over a roller-coaster year.
After SU’s 77-70 loss to Ohio State in the Elite Eight, it was the senior leaders who were the most visibly shaken. The tears Kris Joseph had to fight back postgame signified the end.
“It’s – it’s tough. It’s real tough knowing that my career is over. And knowing I won’t be playing with these guys again.”
K-Jo was speechless numerous times. Dion Waiters sat in the locker room alone with a towel over his face. Scoop Jardine balled his eyes out. All three knew their time on the Hill was over. The Orange had stayed so tough, and so resilient throughout a season with one drama after another. How many times did we wonder whether they could stay focused? How could they possibly ignore all the off court issues? Remarkably, the team handled everything with maturity and unselfishness. But it also led to a sickening feeling after the game for Jardine.
“It hurts so much. You play with a group of guys that you work so hard with all year, to get to this moment, and it hurts because you came up short. The loss hurt, but me not playing with these guys for the rest of my life hurts even more. They’re like my brothers.”
Scoop and Dion finished their SU careers on the bench. It was painful to watch down the stretch. But Boeheim admitted his team did not come through offensively when it needed to, and lacked the patience necessary for a tough matchup like OSU. SU didn’t get the high percentage looks it had just two nights earlier. The Orange could not capitalize during Jared Sullinger’s 13-minute absence in the first half, settling for a 29-29 tie heading into the locker room. Boeheim knew that was the difference maker.
“That’s where I think we lost the game. We needed to be in a better position at the end of the half. [Our effort] wasn’t good enough. We needed to do a better job in the first half offensively.”
While fans have bludgeoned the officiating, neither Boeheim nor the players chalked up the loss to the refs. SU’s inability to move the ball effectively and get to the rim cost this team. It was a valiant fight in the second half, but Brandon Triche said the Buckeyes were too much.
“You never want to lose like this. We missed a lot of easy shots that could have really helped us. They outrebounded us, right when Sullinger came back in. I think they just wanted it a little more than us.”
And the one that hangs over all of CNY is “What if Fab had played?” What if Melo was there to man up Sullinger? Maybe SU coverts some of those easy shots. Maybe the Orange builds a big halftime lead because of Sully’s void. Maybe SU’s season is still alive. It’s a bitter way to end, one win short of New Orleans, during a season where salt was dumped into every one of this squad’s open wounds. And they still hung tougher than anyone would have expected, and spilled out every ounce of heart and soul they could have onto the Garden floor.
Posted: Kevin Fitzgerald