Editor’s note: On April 7, 2003, Syracuse defeated Kansas in the NCAA championship match in New Orleans. This is part of looking back Syracuse.comCoverage of that game.
By Bud Poliquin
New Orleans – He tells everyone who listens here that his hometown is a great place, and many people shake their heads. Syracuse? What, they ask Jim Boeheim, in Syracuse?
Well, now they know, right? All those skeptics of the bayou, all the cynics who have seen our weather and laughed, all the doubters scattered throughout the country this morning understand what we get in Central New York.
National champion. That’s what we have. The best college basketball team in the whole country. So, let it snow, honey. Let it snow.
“I’ve never had feelings like this,” Carmelo Anthony said. “This is the best feeling I have ever had in my life. I know (Boeheim) is happy. Tonight, he is probably the happiest person in the world.”
They do it. The Syracuse University Management, the last club to stand in the NCAA Tournament, defeated the Kansas Jayhawks in the vast Louisiana Superdome on Monday night, 81-78. And they did it the old-fashioned way, showering the jumpers – especially in the first half when they set a record 53-point NCAA title game – on top of KU’s stumbling defense from all over the floor.
Anthony … spark. Gerry McNamara … man. Kueth Duany … kerplunk. The three of them combined for 41 points, on 10 of 13 shots from outside the arc, when the SU built a three-touchdown advantage (47-29) after only 15 minutes and held on to the leader in dealing with all types of Damage Kansas as if it had a hold.
“We played exceptional in the first half,” said Boeheim, the 58-year-old coach who is waiting for 27 seasons for the excitement brought by the horn last Monday. “Just as we play, for Kansas to get back in the second round, and be on three points … You would think each group of young players would only go, like,” Well, we make every shot and we are only three points ahead. ‘But they don’t think like that. This is a tribute to these people. They will not give up. I am very proud of them. “
Oh, that was something – a spectacular competition, preserved by Michael Warrick’s block of Jayhawks Michael Lee with 1 1/2 seconds, which made the Orangemen win despite losing an extraordinary election by a group of KU who missed 18 out of 30 matches. free throws and 16 of its 20 3 points.
There are Orangemen, led by youths like Anthony and McNamara and Billy Edelin, each new student … according to his birth certificate. And there are Jayhawks, whose two best players, the bruised Nick Collison (who collected 21 rebounds) and the flat-haired Kirk Hinrich, are seniors of all things. And they were guided by a pair of head coaches, Boeheim and Roy Williams, who joined to work in 34 previous NCAA Tournaments without winning one of them.
But the drought is over now for Boeheim, who discovered in the 879th game on the SU bench that this burg, who was familiar enough to greet the visitors with signs that read “Beware of Pickpockets,” was also good enough to give him a do -over.
You remember what happened the last time Jim ventured into this bulging joint with a title on the telephone in 1987, right? You remember the name Keith Smart, right? After Monday’s miracle, which produced the second basketball championship in our city almost half a century after the old NBA Nats sent the first, you can consider that memory is now dead. However, it is almost not dead.
“I just want to finish this game,” said Josh Pace, who scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds from the bench … and had to withstand the drama of Warrick’s block and three points of hopeless Hinrich to throw a buzzer. “They came back, and we knew they would run. We just wanted to keep our calm and hold them back. And we did it.”
The poets, of course, have created quite a big problem from this Boeheim-vs-Williams business, but the reality is that the two men will probably show up for more than 34 of these tournaments before they go to their respective patio hammocks. So all those who are wringing their hands might not need to.
But then there was drama about Anthony. A truly extraordinary Anthony, who likely played his last basketball match amid the commotion generated by a crowd of 54,524. He came to a cheeky place where drinks were sold three-for-price-one in the French Quarter at 9:30 in the morning the star was certified … and he left it near-legend, ending with 53 points and 24 rebounds (plus 11 assists) in the two contests he played here – a bit of production that put him in a position to walk with the Gods of the Four Finals.
Names and numbers? Try this: Jack Givens, senior, scored 64 points and won 17 rebounds for Kentucky in 1978 … Danny Manning, senior, went 56-17 for Kansas in 1988 … Earvin Johnson, a sophomore, went 53-17 for Michigan State in 1979 … David Thompson, a junior, went 49-17 for North Carolina State in 1974.
Get the photo here? Anthony, an 18-year-old freshman who has appeared in the NBA now after his SU job is finished, places the Final Four figures in his back window. And after doing that, he helped get the person who brought him to our fullest, but not nearly full of himself.
“I don’t feel smarter,” Boeheim said. “Maybe tomorrow. I want to win this. I am very happy. I am truly happier for the players and for, really, our fans. Our fans cannot be trusted in every place we have visited. We have a building in Boston. We have a building in Albany. And we have a lot of people here today. I mean, a lot of people come here from Syracuse. Of course it’s snowing there. They might just want to get out. “
The weather is still bad in Central New York, right? Big problem. Throw a sweater. Put another log on the fire. And smile. The best basketball team in the whole country headed home. And that belongs to all of us. So, let it snow. For all we care about, it can also go down.
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