|Jimmy didn't like the officiating. Nobody liked the officiating.|
Before Syracuse and Pittsburgh tipped off in Thursday's second quarterfinal, Georgetown beat Cincinnati. And so, it was decided: the winner of Syracuse/Pitt would face the Hoyas in Friday night's semifinal. With that backdrop, Thursday's game took on more meaning. Well, probably just for us fans; the team knew they had a big job to do first: Beat Pitt. What Syracuse lacked in the first half against Seton Hall (i.e. a lead), it had no problem securing and maintaining against Pitt. Led by, guess who, James Southerland, the Orange came out swinging and grew a 13-point lead at halftime, 40-27. Ball movement was good, shots were falling, and the defense was active and created scoring opportunities for the Syracuse offense. The second half wasn't quite so friendly; the Panthers started hitting their shots, attacking the zone, and crashing the boards. Meanwhile the Syracuse offense was slow out of the gate in the second half. The 13-point lead many times became ten, or seven, or five. But each time, Syracuse was able to hit a clutch three or string together a couple scores to keep the Panthers at bay. Though it got real dicey at the end, Syracuse was aided by a clutch steal by Michael Carter-Williams and a bunch of points from him, to earn a win over the Panthers 62-59.
- James Southerland. He's a senior and he's giving it everything he's got out there in New York. Another amazing scoring performance to follow yesterday's gem, James scored 20 on 7-10 shooting, including a perfect 6-6 on threes. Some sort of BET record for two games. Add to that six rebounds, two steals, and an assist, and James is really earning his starting position and 36 minutes to go along with it.
- CJ Fair had another CJ Fair game. As expected, I could pretty much copy & paste my comments from most previous recaps on him, but here's his official line: 5-16 shooting for 13 points, including three threes, seven rebounds, a couple blocks and a couple assists.
- Brandon Triche had another pretty solid offensive game, limiting his shots to the more makeable ones: 5-11 for 12 points, with two threes made.
- MCW was a bit of a non-issue in the points category until the final stretch, when he basically single-handedly kept Syracuse in the lead. His final line was 11 points on only 2-4 shooting, but 6-8 from the line. Seven assists, six rebounds, and three steals were great, but his six turnovers were not so great. They made you worry early on, but luckily Syracuse was able to not let the TOs hurt them too much.
- Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Keita again split time as the big man, with the clock today favoring Keita. Christmas fouled out. The two combined for four points and two rebounds. Essentially a non-factor at both ends of the court. It's clear Boeheim must be of the opinion that DaJuan Coleman would be a liability out there at this point.
- A few key statistical categories won by Syracuse: field goal percentage, 46-37; 3-point percentage 63-31; assists 14-11.
- Oddly enough, Syracuse was out-rebounded by Pitt 40-28, but the disparity was on the offensive boards, where Pitt held the advantage 20-8.
- The officials were horrible, both ways. Neither team had an advantage because of it, but it's aggravating as a college basketball fan to see such experienced officials flat out miss or get wrong so many calls.
Bring on Georgetown. That's what this win earns Syracuse: a berth in the Big East Tournament semifinals against top-ranked Georgetown. I'll save all my comments for the preview, but suffice to say Syracuse fans shouldn't let emotion about the Hoyas get in the way. Too much, anyway. And for Pitt? See you on the other side, brothers! (ACC).