It was a very emotional night inside the Carrier Dome Tuesday. In front of 26,616 spectators, two young men that helped the Syracuse Unviersity men's basketball team climb to the top of the national rankings for the first time in 20 years took one more bow.
The departing seniors - forward Arinze Onuaku and guard Andy Rautins - had a difficult time keeping their composure while the fans gave them standing ovations for all they had achieved in their careers at SU.
I did not get choked up," Onuaku said. "I think I saw Andy drop a tear or two so I had to hold him. We had a little moment, but it was all right."
It was SU's last home game of the season, as it battled long-time rival St. John's. The Orange defended its top ranking and avoided falling into a post-Villanova trap, trouncing the Red Storm 85 to 66.
The Orange have now beaten St. John's 10 out of the last 11 meetings. In addition, SU has a 46-37 advantage in the all-time series.
By moving to 28-2 overall (15-2 in the Big East), the Orange captured the 2010 Big East regular-season championship. The last time SU achieved that goal was in 1991. At the end of the game the SU players all hugged one another rejoicing the magical moment of success and the nostalgia of farewell to the seniors.
Onuaku led all scorers, matching his jersey number and posting a double-double with a season-high of 21 points, plus 12 rebounds. Rautins, referred by head coach Jim Boheim as the team's most valuable player, contributed four more 3-pointers on his way to 14 points, adding 7 assists.
"It's hard (to leave),'' Rautins said. "I'm going to miss this place. I appreciate everything these fans did. This place is the best place in the world. My time here has been great and I have no complaints."