Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Syracuse hangs on at the end

Orangemen lose 18-point lead before securing Boeheim's 1st title

Gannett News Service

NEW ORLEANS - At long, long last, Jim Boeheim's mission is accomplished. But Roy Williams' goes on, maybe all the way to North Carolina.

Syracuse-Kansas national championship
One man's championship smile was another's man bowed head Monday night, when Syracuse used a first half shooting blitz and a desperate second half stand to outlast Kansas, 81-78 for the school's first national title.

"Tonight," Carmelo Anthony said of his coach, "he's probably the happiest man on earth."

Between Anthony's 20 points and 10 rebounds and Gerry McNamara's 18 points - a double dose of freshman fearlessness - Syracuse was the last team standing in a torrid, exhausting shootout.

The Orangemen hit 10 of 13 3-pointers in the first half to lead by as many as 18 points.

Their 53-42 halftime lead set a championship game record for most points by a team in the first half.

And still, they had to fight to the last second to save a game that turned into a grinding struggle for shots and air in the second half, with both teams too spent to do anything else.

"We played the best first half we could play," Boeheim said, "then we just hung on."

Kansas had four chances to tie with 3-pointers in the last minute, as Syracuse kept missing free throws that would ice it - the Orangemen were 1 for 5 in the final 58 seconds - and fate was not done toying with Roy Williams.

One by one, the Kansas last-gasp shots fell away... Aaron Miles with 45 seconds .... Kirk Hinrich on a ball that was in and out at 15 seconds ... Michael Lee, with a shot blocked by Hakim Warrick with 1.5 seconds, after an open Hinrich decided to pass to the corner ... and then Hinrich at the buzzer, on a Kansas prayer over three leaping Orangemen that was far wide.

"If he would have made that," Syracuse's Billy Edelin said, "he would have deserved it."

Unlike 1987, when a basket by Indiana's Keith Smart made Syracuse pay for missing free throws, this corner shot didn't go in.

How frantic could it get, with both coaches on the sideline, teased one way and then the other?

"This is one of those times I feel so inadequate as a coach and so inadequate as a person," Williams said, "because there's nothing I can say to change the way my kids feel, nothing that can change the way I feel."

What doomed the Jayhawks' as much as anything was a disaster at the free throw line. They were 12 for 30, and missed 11 of their first 12 in the second half in a shocking meltdown that ruined a momentous effort from Nick Collison, with his 19 points and 21 rebounds. But he missed seven of his 10 free throws, too.

"You miss, you make, there's nothing else you can do," Collison said.

"It bothered him greatly," Williams said of Collison's misses. "But it didn't bother his heart."

"Even in the losing locker room, I feel as if I'm the luckiest coach in America because I got to coach Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison."

So in his third trip to the championship game, Boeheim finally got to cut down the nets, and take the steps he has watched so many others take, men whose victory totals pale next to his 653.

"I hurt for my team," Williams said. "But I was happy for him."

"I told him (Williams) the same thing Bob Knight said to me in 1987," Boeheim said. "You'll be back some day."

Boeheim needed the 11 3-pointers from his team.

Needed the double-double from Anthony, who became the first freshman to be named Most Outstanding Player in a Final Four since Louisville's Pervis Ellison 17 years ago.

Needed the second wind when Kansas got to within three early in the second half.

Needed the 12 points off the bench from Billy Edelin, yet another freshman. And three baskets from center Craig Forth, who had scored only one in all five previous NCAA Tournament games together.

Needed his role players to come forward, since Anthony and McNamara combined for only seven second-half points.

In his fourth trip to the Final Four, Williams fell short again, left to answer the impossible question, of how the big one got away.

The other question is of his future - whether he returns to Kansas or accepts the offer that is almost sure to come from North Carolina.

"Right now," he said, "I don't give a (blank) about North Carolina. I care about those 13 kids in there."

Monday could have been the other way around.

Had not Syracuse began the game with its shooting aflame, roaring to a 47-29 lead.

Had not McNamara buried six 3-pointers in the first half, scoring all 18 of his points by halftime. "I felt like every shot I got," he said, "I needed to make."

Had not Keith Langford, in foul trouble all night trying to chase Anthony, fouled out with 5:36 left, taking his 19 points and his will with him.

Had not Hinrich gone 6 for 19 from the floor, and turned his ankle along the way.

Had not Kansas been outgunned 11-4 in 3-pointers, which wiped out its 52-36 rebounding edge.

Had not the Jayhawks run dry just when they had closed to 61-58 in the second half. They went the next four minutes without a point, as the free throws began to clang away one after another.

The margin grew to 12. Too much for Kansas, but only barely.

Boeheim has been on the bad end of many could-have-been nights in the NCAA Tournament. But that was for the record book. This would be very different.

"He never coaches about the future or what happened in the past," said Kueth Duany, the lone Syracuse senior. "He coaches in the moment."

His moment came Monday.



                          fg    ft    rb             
                   min   m-a   m-a   o-t   a  pf   tp
H Warrick           31   2-4   2-4   0-2   1   3    6
C Anthony           37  7-16   3-4  4-10   7   2   20
C Forth             24   3-4   0-1   1-3   0   5    6
G McNamara          34  6-13   0-0   0-0   1   2   18
K Duany             13   4-6   1-2   3-4   0   3   11
J Pace              21   4-9   0-0   1-8   2   2    8
B Edelin            27  4-10   4-6   0-2   2   1   12
J McNeil            13   0-1   0-0   2-5   0   4    0
TOTALS             200 30-63 10-17 11-34  13  22   81

Percentages: FG-.476, FT-.588. 3-Point Goals:
11-18, .611 (C Anthony 3-5, G McNamara 6-10, 
K Duany 2-3). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked 
Shots: 7 (C Forth 3, J McNeil 2, H Warrick 
2). Turnovers: 17 (H Warrick 3, C Anthony 3, 
G McNamara 3, K Duany 2, B Edelin 2, J McNeil
2, J Pace 2). Steals: 10 (J Pace 3, B Edelin 
3, K Duany, C Anthony, G McNamara, C Forth).


                          fg    ft    rb             
                   min   m-a   m-a   o-t   a  pf   tp
N Collison          40  8-14  3-10  8-21   3   5   19
K Langford          23   7-9  5-10   2-2   0   5   19
J Graves            37  7-13   2-7 11-16   3   2   16
K Hinrich           38  6-20   1-1   1-2   4   1   16
A Miles             34   1-5   0-0   1-6   7   1    2
M Lee               23   2-8   0-0   1-1   1   1    5
B Nash               5   0-2   1-2   0-1   0   1    1
TOTALS             200 31-71 12-30 24-49  18  16   78

Percentages: FG-.437, FT-.400. 3-Point Goals:
4-20, .200 (K Langford 0-1, K Hinrich 3-12, A
Miles 0-2, M Lee 1-5). Team Rebounds: 3. 
Blocked Shots: 4 (N Collison 3, K Hinrich). 
Turnovers: 18 (N Collison 5, A Miles 4, K 
Hinrich 3, K Langford 3, J Graves 2, M Lee). 
Steals: 9 (N Collison 3, M Lee 2, K Hinrich, 
J Graves, K Langford, A Miles).

SYRACUSE             53  28   -  81
KANSAS               42  36   -  78

Technical fouls: None. A: 54,524. Officials: Dick 
Cartmell, Gerald Boudreaux, Reggie Cofer

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