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Want Went Wrong: The Officiating Short-Circuited Syracuse’s Strengths

Editor’s note: The Fizz is rebooting its series from last year asking “What Went Wrong?” We will unveil a new reason every day this week on why SU’s March run fell incomplete. 

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The Fizz has been theorizing reasons Syracuse was eliminated in the Elite 8, but we wrap up the series with the most obvious headache of all: the officiating. Given the referees decision to call the game as tight as they did, there was little hope of the Orange advancing to New Orleans.

It wasn’t a basketball game Рit was a foul shooting contest. And the Buckeyes had more chances at the line to put them on top. Basketball is supposed to be an up and down, fast-paced game with physical play allowed down low. This contest was physical, but had no flow to it Рand the refs are to blame.

The refs treated their whistles like Pringle cans: once you pop you can’t stop.¬†The numbers from the game are simply staggering: 49 fouls called against just 43 field goals made. The Buckeyes had more free throws than minutes played. Both teams were in the double bonus with more than 10:00 to play in the game. That just shouldn’t happen with the Final Four is on the line.¬†This is exactly the type of game that favored OSU,¬†and spelled doom for the Orange.

Syracuse is at its best when it can get into transition and play up-tempo. SU is nearly unstoppable in transition with playmakers capable of leading the break and finishing off easy buckets. But there was never any chance of that because of the inordinate time spent at the foul line.

A huge turning point in the first half came when Brandon Triche was called for a charge with a tie game, 23-23. Triche made a strong move to the basket, apparently drawing a foul and a free-throw. However, for some odd reason the zebras called it the other way negating the basket. Without question it was a block, and it cost SU a potential three-point lead. Jim Boeheim promptly went ballistic and received a technical foul. Buford only hit one from the line, but a 26-23 Orange advantage turned into a 24-23 Ohio State lead. Syracuse needed the lead at half with the way the game was being called, especially with Jared Sullinger on the bench for the Buckeyes.

One of our commenters, OrangeCrush22, nailed another terrible called that turn this game around in the second half.

“With 5-7 minutes left in the game ‘Cuse down 2  points, OSU possession, Sullinger gets the ball in the low post, dribbles towards the foul line for what looks to be a baby hook, but trips over his own feet before and Baye is called for a foul. Sullinger hits both free throws and ‘Cuse is down 4. That’s 2 points that OSU is given by refs.”

This mistake was huge because of the SU momentum after being down double-digits in the second half. The Orange never tied the game or regained the lead after this. If this play is called correctly SU would have had an opportunity to knot the game up. Instead, OSU extended the lead to four and had cushion to work with the rest of the game.

The Fizz acknowledges there were calls that went in favor of the Orange throughout the game. But the entire pace of the game was dictated by the officials, which was a clear advantage for the Buckeyes. Ohio State deserves credit for outplaying SU. The Buckeyes also capitalized on their never-ending turn at the charity stripe.

In the 2003 National Championship Kansas lost the game at the foul line shooting an abysmal 12-30. Syracuse committed 22 fouls in ‘03, compared to 28 against Ohio State. The foul situation hurt both teams, with Dion Waiters only playing 20 minutes and Jared Sullinger playing just 26. The Fizz just wishes the best players, and the best team, would have decided the Elite 8.

Posted: Dave Van Moffaert

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.


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