Syracuse Shows Off Its Depth in a Win at ArkansasPosted by rtmsf on November 30th, 2012
Eli Linton is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Friday night’s SEC/Big East Challenge game from Fayetteville.
Everyone in Fayetteville, Arkansas, wanted this win tonight. They packed the Bud Walton Arena to the rafters, white out and all. They stood and gave their best “woo! Pig Sooie!” chant, got to the arena just a little bit earlier, and sang the fight song just a little bit louder. Even one of the parking attendants felt he needed to tell me how important this game was to the school. “We’re playing for all the marbles tonight.” He said when I pulled up (Yes, but can I park here?). But tonight, it didn’t matter how bad the Razorback fans wanted it, it wasn’t going to happen. For a team that prides itself in the slogan “fastest 40 minutes in basketball,” these 40 minutes turned out to be the longest of the year for Arkansas.
Syracuse fell behind briefly at the beginning of the game thanks to the hyped-up crowed and Mike Anderson’s energized Razorback squad, but the game quickly shifted into Orange hands as they slowed the tempo with a zone defense and a killer night from beyond the arc, mostly by the hands of senior James Southerland, who came off the bench to lead the Orange with a career high 35 points. Southerland was an unbelievable 9-13 from three, and he’s been having a career year to help boost the Orange to the no.6 ranking. Coming in to the game, all eyes were on sophomore Michael Carter-Williams, who leads Division I in assists per game and was second in steals. Carter-Williams did not disappoint, almost racking up a triple-double with 17 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists, and three steals.“He almost had a triple-double and I’m yelling at him. So he must be pretty good,” Jim Boeheim commented about Carter-Williams’ performance after the game.
As the night went on, Razorback fans grew more restless. Calls that went against them were met with long, drawn out boos from the faithful. Every time the referee was shown on the big screen the fans would respond in anger. Right as the first half ended, the fans were on the verge of a riot thanks to an offensive foul call that stopped the Hawgs’ momentum as they tried to claw their way back in the game. But it wasn’t the refs that did you in tonight, Hog nation; it was a Syracuse team that has something to prove. “This was one of the toughest buildings that I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a couple,” said Boeheim, and he admitted that his team had been worn out by the pressure defense from the Razorbacks, but that’s hardly an excuse for this team. “It’s tough, it’s physical—it’s a physical game—but if you can’t play in those situations when you’re tired then you’re not going to make it. There is no such thing as being tired in a game like that. You got to keep playing.”
There was one point in the second half where it looked like the Razorbacks might pull even or go ahead, carrying all the momentum as they closed the Orange lead to five before Syracuse senior Brandon Triche ripped off back-to-back threes and eight straight points. You may as well have turned off all the lights and gone home right then — Syracuse was not going to lose this game. With about four minutes to go in the game SU held a 10-point lead and the exits began to fill. The frustrated fans left a little earlier than usual. An organized walkout was the only thing left to demonstrate their level of frustration. One of the trumpet players in the band couldn’t contain himself any longer, and he shouted at the river of white shirts flowing up the isle to the parking lot. “If WE have to stay for this whole thing then YOU should have to stay too!” They’re not on a scholarship, buddy. Nobody wants to watch their team get smoked and then have to think about it while sitting in a traffic jam—They are out. By the final buzzer the place was almost empty.
Mike Anderson is a good coach, and he is going to turn around that program, but Syracuse right now is just a better team. Jim Boeheim has once again assembled a physical, all-around imposing squad. They may not have the big names from the past like Anthony, McNamara, Flynn or Johnson, but you owe it to yourself to pay attention to this particular group. They play well together. Carter-Williams looked like he has the potential to be one of the best guards in the country, and Triche provides that ever so important senior leadership. Southerland, if he continues to come off the bench, might be the best sixth man in the country. He’s putting up some ridiculous shooting numbers for a 6’8″ big man. This team has a lot of weapons, and we haven’t even mentioned C.J. Fair and DaJuan Coleman, two more forwards that I was impressed with on Friday. Although their defense was not in tip-top shape tonight, Boeheim will no doubt have them playing on a higher level when it counts the most. That’s what makes this a dangerous program. It’s the discipline that Boeheim demands.