Another Syracuse game. Another heart palpitating finish, not good for pacemakers and blood pressure around upstate New York. The Orange hold on to win 57-55, but not before unnecessarily tense moments late. Syracuse had a 51-39 lead at the 5:26 mark left in the game. From there the Terps found shots and SU took barrels of outside, off-balance, late-in-the-shot clock jumpers (and missed many). Maryland closed it to a 56-55 deficit with just :30 left, but a scramble last-second dash ended the game with an off-the-mark heave at the buzzer.
How did Syracuse allow the game to become so close despite having held a 12-point lead? A lot of bad possessions. Tyler Ennis, C.J. Fair and Trevor Cooney all tossed up tough outside jumpers over the course of the final five minutes. There wasn’t nearly enough emphasis on driving to the basket and creating higher-percentage shots or getting to the line. Maybe the Orange legs had given out. Syracuse played three games in less than a week, while Maryland had not played in eight days.
Jim Boeheim was right on his assessment Saturday night after the Duke loss. It was obscured by his meltdown and ejection over the Fair charge call, but Boeheim correctly highlighted the point Syracuse would play Monday night on just one day’s rest, while Maryland would have a full week to prepare. The Big East went to great lengths to make sure Big Monday was not a competitive disadvantage for its teams. If one squad played Saturday and Monday, then its opponent did too. The ACC does not hold the same scheduling requirement, which is a joke. But just another case of the ACC thinking it invented college basketball, when in reality it needs plenty of tips from the “upstarts” of the old Big East. There’s no way SU should’ve been dragging its bodies after an emotional game at Duke on just a day’s rest while Maryland lounged all week on its off-campus futons.
At the end, Syracuse found a way to win. The Terps just aren’t very good. And Jay Bilas was right when he said during the broadcast the Orange deserve a 1-seed despite the two losses because there just aren’t four teams more deserving in the nation. The last two weeks doesn’t give Syracuse fans much optimism that this will be an easy March. But the alternative was a three-game losing streak. Syracuse will take its win, thank you very much, and finally have some time off to prepare for next game – Saturday’s tilt vs. Virginia.