All season long the Syracuse man's basketball team has had to overcome adversity, from the molestation charges against Bernie Fine to a related lawsuit against Jim Boeheim to the news that 7-foot center Fab Melo was ineligible for the NCAA Tournament, reportedly for academic problems.
So it only figured that, Thursday afternoon, 18,927 spectators at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, were treated to an NCAA second-round game between top-seeded SU and no. 16 seed UNC-Asheville that was entertaining, dramatic, and capped off with a controversial ending.
With 1:30 left, the Bulldogs trailed by four points. Scoop, Jardine, normally a poor free-throw shooter, missed the front end of a one-and-one. But Asheville's J.P. Primm stepped into the lane prematurely and was whistled for a lane violation.
Jardine capitalized, swishing in a pair of free throws that extended Syracuse’s lead to three. After Jared Lane drilled a 3-pointer to cut it to 64-61, the Bulldogs implemented a full-court press.
Asheville trapped Brandon Triche on the sideline in the backcourt and Triche lost control of the ball as he tumbled to the ground. However, he was bailed out when the referees ruled that play resulted in a foul.
Eventually, SU won 72-65, avoiding unpleasant NCAA history as the first top seed to fall to a no. 16 seed.
“I do not think luck had anything to do with this game today,” said Boeheim. “I think the better team won.”
The Bulldogs (29-10) played well in both halves and never lost its composure, pushing the Orange to the wire. One could make a strong case that it deserved a better fate. However, at times Asheville's offense went cold and, as it was held to one field goal in the final minute, SU hit six of seven free throws that sealed the outcome.
“We gave it everything we had,” said Asheville head coach Eddie Biedenbach. “We battled the best that we could. These guys are great. They deserved a better fate than we had today.”