Saturday afternoon passed into Saturday evening. Hours and minutes passed. Nerves clashed with excitement, everyone from diehard fan to casual follower aware of the contest, the stakes, the meaning of this night.
No mere basketball game was taking place. Not to us in Central New York, for we had taken this latest edition of Syracuse men’s basketball and placed them deep into our hearts, lavishing our praises and decrying all the outside forces that, willingly or not, wanted to bring them down.
A win here over Ohio State in the NCAA East Regional final in Boston, and the ecstasy would be impossible to contain. Both on the university hill and elsewhere across the region, fans put on their orange gear, cheered, screamed, groaned and prayed for deliverance, yearned to see their heroes play one more weekend in New Orleans.
Instead, it ended Buckeyes 77, Orange 70, numbers that provoked despair, disappointment and, in some quarters, outright anger. Many pointed the blaming finger at the stripes, of course, and given the 49 fouls and one T given to Jim Boeheim, the game did lack the pulsating rhythm an occasion like this should merit.
All of that is wasted energy, though. True, a few less whistles allow both teams to play the way they wanted from start to finish, but even with that, there’s no guarantee that SU wins.
There were too many rushed shots, too few rebounds, no real exploitation of the long first-half absence of Jared Sullinger. Deep in his heart, Boeheim likely knew this, so in the aftermath he didn’t waste time excoriating officials, though no one in Orange would have blamed him if he did.
My own emotions, as an SU alum that so badly wanted this team to get to New Orleans, were shaky all night. For a couple of hours, I stopped being that cold, impartial writer and morphed into a fan that exulted with every basket, cringed at every mistake and yanked whatever was left of my hair at the (many) fouls.