Tuesday, April 8, 2003

The 'other' freshman does the damage early

By Arnie Stapleton
The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS - Gerry McNamara, Syracuse's "other" freshman star, did all of his damage in the first half. And that was plenty.

McNamara scored 18 points by sinking 6-of-8 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes as the Orangemen built an 11-point halftime lead on their way to an 81-78 victory over Kansas for coach Jim Boeheim's first national championship.

Syracuse-Kansas national championship
"I just got off early," McNamara said. "I knew that if we were going to be successful I'd have to make my shots. I got the looks in the first half, and the guys carried us off in the second half."

Fellow freshman Carmelo Anthony, the tournament's most outstanding player, led the Orangemen with 20 points, 13 of them in the first half.

"They came out hitting everything," Kansas guard Kirk Hinrich said.

And for good reason, suggested his coach.

"Two, maybe three of those, we didn't even have a hand in his face," Roy Williams said of McNamara.

Williams switched defenders in the second half, replacing Aaron Miles with a rotation of Hinrich and Michael Lee to keep McNamara in check.

It worked, but the Orangemen were too far in front by then for Kansas to catch up, especially with the Jayhawks misfiring from near and far. They finished 12-of-30 from the free throw line and 4-of-20 from beyond the arc.

McNamara was coming off a 19-point performance against Texas in the semifinals, but Boeheim said he didn't necessarily think that did anything for his confidence.

"If he makes one, he thinks he's going to make them all," Boeheim said. "Of course, if he misses one, he thinks he's going to make them all."

Williams was proud of the resiliency his experienced team showed, but the first-half outburst by McNamara, and Syracuse's other young players, proved to be too much.

"We tried and we tried and we tried, but we never could get over the hump," Williams said. "Those freshmen are the ones that built that big hump there for us to have to get over."

For a while it appeared that McNamara would challenge the Final Four mark of 10 3-pointers set by UNLV's Freddie Banks against Indiana in 1987.

"He looked like the freshman of the year," Boeheim said of McNamara's first-half display.

But McNamara missed both of his 3-point attempts in the second half, when fellow freshman Billy Edelin took over by scoring 10 of his 12 points and Anthony scored some crucial baskets.

McNamara put the Orangemen ahead for good with his first 3-pointer, which gave Syracuse a 5-3 lead in the opening minutes.

"This is the best feeling in the world," the Scranton, Pa., native said. "I won a state championship in high school last year and this is so much better. This is the national championship, and as a freshman it doesn't get any better."

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