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.