March 17, 2012
Orange advanceSyracuse gets breaks against Kansas State
By Mike Ganter, QMI Agency
All season it has been the Syracuse Orange carrying the baggage of off-court distractions into their games.
From the Bernie Fine scandal to the admitted drug problems to the surprise ineligibility of Fab Melo, there have been few games the Orange have gone into worried strictly about basketball.
For a change the floor was somewhat evened Saturday as the Orange moved on to the round of 16 with a 75-69 win over Kansas State.
About 20 minutes before tipoff yesterday, Kansas State’s athletic director called an impromptu news conference just outside the team’s locker room and informed the media the team’s second-leading scorer, Jamar Samuels, had been ruled ineligible for the game.
School officials did not provide details but without the 6-foot-7 Samuels in the lineup, the size advantage the Wildcats had was muted.
And losing Samuels was just the start.
Late in the first half, Wildcats leading scorer Rodney McGruder went over on his ankle. While he was only out of the game for three minutes as trainers taped up the ankle, when he did return he was not the same player who went off for 30 against Southern Mississippi in the tournament opener for Kansas State.
McGruder wound up with 15 but the bulk of that scoring came before he turned the ankle or long after the Orange had pulled away.
For the Orange, it was once again the veterans stepping up in the second half when Syracuse put this one to bed.
Head coach Jim Boeheim has asked veterans Scoop Jardine and Canada’s own Kris Joseph to step up in the absence of Melo and in the wake of all the off-court distractions that might handcuff a less-focused organization.
Jardine, who had just two points in the first half, stepped up with 14 in the second to help the Orange pull away.
THAT’S GOOD COMPANY
With the win over Kansas State, Boeheim matched John Wooden’s 47 wins in NCAA tourney play. Boeheim had the good grace to point out that while being mentioned in the same breath with Wooden is a huge honour, it took him 29 years to get his 47; Wooden did it in 10. Actually it took Wooden 12 years, but Boeheim’s point is spot on. The only coaches in NCAA tournament history with more wins are (in order) Duke’s Mike Krzyewski, former North Carolina head man Dean Smith and present North Carolina head coach Roy Williams.
NO CINDERELLA RUN
The Gonzaga Bulldogs may no longer qualify for Cinderella status, but a run in this year’s tournament came up short Saturday in a loss to the No. 2-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.
Gonzaga rallied from a 10-point deficit midway through the second half to pull even with the Buckeyes but then went stone cold, allowing the Buckeyes to open up another seven-point lead into the final minute on the way to a 73-66 win.
The matchup on just about everyone’s radar in this one was Newmarket’s Kevin Pangos, the Zags’ freshman point guard, going up against Ohio State sophomore Aaron Craft.
Whereas Pangos’ reputation is that of a scorer, Craft brings the lock-down defender mentality and in this instance it was Craft prevailing at both ends of the court.
Craft made things very difficult for Pangos, who struggled with his shot all afternoon, making just three of his 13 attempts. He finished the game hitting just one of his final 10 as Craft badgered and pestered him into an unproductive afternoon.
Gonzaga’s other Canadian, North Vancouver’s Robert Sacre, was given the tall task of trying to contain NBA lottery draft pick Jared Sullinger. Sullinger wound up with 18 but Sacre was a presence all afternoon, keeping Sullinger from going off and subsequently keeping Gonzaga in the game.
While Sacre graduates this year, the Bulldogs should be back again a year from now in good shape with guards Pangos, Dave Stockton and Gary Bell Jr. all likely back for a sophomore season with this experience under their belts.
You had to believe Ohio State was starting to believe the curse of the No. 2. The Buckeyes came out tentative Saturday but found its collective legs in the second half and held off the Bulldogs. Friday, two of the other four No. 2 seeds in the tournament, Duke and Missouri, were knocked off by No. 15 seeded teams ... The Syracuse bench outscored Kansas State’s bench 33-0 in the game. That’s asking a lot of your starters ... Reggie Miller was a wonder to watch on the basketball court but he leaves plenty to be desired as an analyst. Not every ex-pro is meant to get behind a mike and Miller, at least where the college game is concerned, should give up his. His line about the Syracuse Orange finding “refuge in basketball” in a season where the entire program has come under fire was a bit much.