Monthly Archives: March 2016
1. When the SU men’s basketball team went to Florida State last Saturday, a win was, in the minds of many, required to assure an NCAA Tournament bid. But things didn’t work out in Tallahassee. Though the Orange had beat the Seminoles on Feb. 11, FSU made sure the sequel was far more difficult. Tyler Lydon again produced off the bench during the first half, earning 12 points as Michael Gbinije was held to five points. After a slow start by both teams, FSU blazed to a 22-15 lead midway through the half. Slowly, the Orange climbed back and made a 20-6 run late in the half to lead by as much as seven, but Xavier Rathan-Mayes made a 3 right before the half to pull the Seminoles within 35-31 at the break, an ominous sign.
2. The second half between SU and Florida State saw the Seminoles quickly go back out in front and the Orange began to give chase. SU caught up at 55-55, but FSU rattled off eight straight points during a 10-2 run. The deficit grew to 71-61 but the Orange weren’t done, charging back within two, 75-73, in the final minute due to made 3-pointers and missed FSU free throws. The Seminoles got it back to three and when MalachI Richardson missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds, the Orange had lost, 76-73, finishing at .500 in the ACC (9-9), despite 16 second-half points from Michael Gbinije and 21 overall before fouling out. Richardson had 15 points and Cooney 12 points, but the Orange were now in serious NCAA Tournament danger.
3. On Wednesday afternoon, SU met Pittsburgh in the second round of the ACC Tournament. Two losses to the Panthers in the regular season added to the urgency of this game, which most thought the Orange had to win in order to lock up that precious NCAA Tournament bid. All looked fine in the early going, with SU playing airtight defense on one end while, on the other end, it got enough baskets as a Michael Gbinije 3-pointer created a 24-14 advantage with seven minutes in the half. It didn’t last, with Pitt going on a 17-3 run late in the half. Though Dajuan Coleman was playing well, Trevor Cooney was not, and as SU went to halftime trailing 31-29, it knew the next 20 minutes would go a long way toward deciding its post-season fate.
4. It was quite a second half between SU and Pittsburgh. Even without the rebounding edge it had before, the Panthers grabbed a 48-34 lead early in the half and despite several SU charged, Pitt still was up 66-54 with less than four minutes left. Desperate, and without Trevor Cooney out there, SU pressed and rattled the Panthers, coming all the way back in three minutes to tie it, 68-68. But back-to-back baskets by James Robinson put the Panthers back in front. Michael Gbinije made a 3, giving him 23 points, and Sheldon Jeter missed a free throw which gave SU a chance to win. Trevor Cooney came off the bench and, with Gbinije smothered, had to take the last shot – off the rim. Pitt had held on, 72-71, and the loss hurt SU plenty.
5. By a combined margin of four points, SU just may have squandered its chance to Dance. After the loss to Pittsburgh, Jim Boeheim made the point that his team had suffered enough due to his own nine-game suspension and sitting out the post-season a year ago through events that were no fault of their own. Yet the Orange only had a .500 record after Boeheim returned, and each of the last three defeats – to North Carolina, Florida State and Pitt – were close and within reach at the end. SU had to hope that the NCAA Tournament committee looked past those defeats and saw that the team was clearly better with Boeheim than it was when it went 4-5 during his suspension. All the answers would come on Selection Sunday.
6. By stark contrast, the SU women’s basketball team continues to fly at new heights after an inspired run to the ACC Tournament final in Greensboro, North Carolina. It started with the Orange, as the no. 3 seed, meeting North Carolina State in the quarterfinals last Friday night and beating the Wolfpack 80-61. Brianna Butler’s four 3-pointers in the early going set the tone, and though N.C. State rallied from a 34-28 deficit to lead 37-35 early in the third quarter, SU went back in front and dominated the rest of the way, outscoring the Wolfpack 45-24. Alexis Peterson led the late push and finished with 18 points, just ahead of Butler’s total of 17 points. Brittney Sykes (15 points), Taylor Ford and Cornelia Fondren (10 points each) also hit double figures.
7. An even better win was earned by SU’s women in Saturday’s ACC semifinal, where it knocked off no. 7-ranked Louisville 80-75. Here, SU grabbed the early lead on the Cardinals and kept it throughout the first half, going to the break in front 39-33. Louisville tied it, 62-62, going to the fourth quarter, but it didn’t faze SU, who got back the lead and, in the final seconds, held on with four consecutive free throws from Cornelia Fondren and Brianna Butler. Fondren finished with 18 points and added 13 rebounds, one of the highest totals of her SU career, just behind Alexis Peterson’s steady 19-point effort. Butler got 12 points and Briana Day had 11 points in just 18 minutes as SU reached its first conference tournament final since 1988.
8. Only the no. 2-ranked team in the country kept SU’s women from the ACC championship. Notre Dame proved too good, the Fighting Irish defeating the Orange 68-57 as it built a 42-30 halftime lead and never let SU catch up, despite another 19 points from Alexis Peterson and 17 points from Briana Day. Having finished the season at 25-7, SU continued to rise up to new heights in the national rankings – no. 14 in AP, no. 15 in the coaches’ poll. And there’s a good chance that, when the NCAA Tournament brackets are revealed on Monday night, the Orange will get to host the first two rounds since the top four seeds in each of the four regions will do so. SU has never hosted NCAA women’s tournament games before.
9. In its first road game and first ACC game of the season, SU’s men’s lacrosse team, no. 3 in the national rankings, won a 14-13 thriller at Virginia. From a 3-0 start, the Orange fell behind 6-5, only to reclaim an 8-7 edge by halftime. Extending the lead to 13-8 early in the fourth quarter, SU nearly surrendered all of it, with the Cavaliers pulling within 13-12 before Nick Mariano’s goal with 6:12 left turned out to be the game-winner, SU able to get the last face-off after James Pannell cut it to one with 37 seconds left. Mariano, Tim Barber and Derek Deloe each had three goals as the Orange improved to 4-0 on the season, heading back home this Saturday to face St. John’s before a big one with Johns Hopkins next weekend.
10. SU’s women’s lacrosse team also traveled to Virginia last weekend for its ACC opener, carrying a no. 2 ranking despite its narrow overtime defeat to Florida. Still, the Orange defeated the no. 7-ranked Cavaliers 14-8, never trailing once. A run late in the first half created a 7-3 halftime advantage, and while Virginia did pull within two, 10-8, it didn’t score a goal in the last 17-plus minutes as the Orange pulled away, improving to 6-1. Kayla Treanor again was unstoppable, with six goals and one assist, plus seven draw controls as SU got 14 to Virginia’s 10. This leads the Orange to a rematch of last year’s national semifinal with the no. 1-ranked, defending national champion Maryland Terrapins at the Carrier Dome on Saturday afternoon.
Summit Auto Group Best of the Week: Nothing at SU is as remarkable as what the women’s basketball team has done. The Orange, steadily improving in the last few years under Quentin Hillsman, has risen all the way to a school-record 25 victories and a program-best no. 13 ranking in the AP poll after a third-place regular-season finish in the ACC and a run to the ACC Tournament finals, SU’s first conference finals appearance since 1988. And now it could host first and second-round NCAA Tournament games next weekend.
McDonald’s Rewind and Archive: This week was the 10-year anniversary of Gerry McNamara’s amazing run at the Big East Tournament. McNamara’s floating 3-pointer in the first round beat Cincinnati and saved the Orange from NIT exile. Then he hit a 3-pointer late in regulation to set up an overtime victory over no. 1-ranked Connecticut, and then he helped SU beat hated rival Georgetown in the semifinals with more heroics and the Orange finally topped Pittsburgh in the title game. In doing so, G-Mac silenced critics who called him overrated, and did it all with a groin injury that all but sidelined him in an NCAA Tournament Round of 64 defeat to Texas A&M.
Eaton Crouse Hinds Community Corner: One of the best games at the Carrier Dome this spring, if not the best, may take place this Saturday afternoon when SU’s women’s lacrosse team meets Maryland. The Terrapins are the defending NCAA champions, 4-0 with its only close call an 8-7 win over North Carolina. SU, despite its overtime loss to Florida, is 6-1 and no. 3 in the national rankings. They also met last year in the national semifinals, with the Terps prevailing on the way to winning it all. SU is still in search of its first national championship, and badly wants this one.
The U.S. Army Weekly Recap: Instead of making sure it would be in the NCAA Tournament, the SU men’s basketball team went in the other direction. Both in the regular-season finale against Florida State and in the ACC Tournament second-round game against Pittsburgh, the Orange led early, fell behind double digits, made inspired comebacks but fell just one basket short. By doing so, the Orange fell to 19-13 and gave every reason for the NCAA committee to leave them out of the Dance, though no one would know anything for sure until Selection Sunday.