Lucky. That was the word used to describe the Syracuse Orange's second-round NCAA Tournament victory, 72-65, over the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs on Thursday. The top-seeded team in the East region, used 15 bench points from junior forward James Southerland and, most importantly, help from the officials to advance to the Round of 32 where it will face No. 8 Kansas St. Wildcats on Saturday.
The contest was decided by a few key things: 1) The Orange's inability to play against a zone defense; 2) Syracuse's inability to make 3-pointers against a zone defense (5-for-23); 3) Senior forward Kris Joseph and senior point guard Scoop Jardine being terrible in the first half, but, better in the second; 4) the referees; and 5) the amazing play and gameplan by UNC-Asheville.
All of that led to SB Nation's Sean Keely, the creator and manger of the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician, reacting like this after the game:
Syracuse Defeats UNC-Asheville: Instant Reaction - NunesMagician.com (via nunesmagician)
To be honest, for Syracuse fans, that's a perfect reaction (because that's what I was doing all-game long). So many times I screamed, "why are you taking 3s!!!" or "take it to the rim!!!" or "......." It was that sort of game which was going to go down in the history of epic Syracuse losses in the NCAA Tournament.
But then something happened, as Southerland started getting hot, freshman center Rakeem Christmas and sophomore center Baye Keita started playing good defense inside the paint and Joseph and Jardine began to play better (not a lot a lot better, but better).
Then, all this happened and the Orange pulled out the slim victory. Here's what SB Nation's Dan Rubenstein and Bomani Jones had to say about the game:
What's your thoughts? Make sure to post comments over at SB Nation's Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician.
For a breakdown of Syracuse vs. UNC-Asheville ending, check back to this SB Nation New York StoryStream.