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Virginia - Syracuse Postgame Reactions OR Dome Closer

Rak walks off the home court one last time

After traveling to Durham for Saturday's game against #4 Duke, Syracuse had a quick turnaround Monday, facing #2 Virginia in the Carrier Dome. For as good as Syracuse's defense can be, everyone knew Virginia's was just dominant this season, and likely would be against Syracuse. It was an excruciating start: neither team scored until Rakeem Christmas hit two foul shots at 17:12, neither team scored a field goal until Tyler Roberson's layup at 14:35, and Virginia didn't scored until 11:42. In fact, Syracuse led as much as 13-2 as late as 6:06 remaining in the first half. And then it all escalated quickly. Virginia remembered how to score, and Syracuse forgot. The Cavs took a 23-20 lead into halftime, and just turned it on in the second half, to beat the Orange 59-47.

  • The leading scorer for Syracuse was... Trevor Cooney with 14 (5-12, 2-8 from three, 2-5 from the line). 
  • Tyler Roberson and Rakeem Christmas each scored ten. 
  • Not that Syracuse shot the ball well in this, because they didn't (38.3%), but rebounding was clearly the issue. Virginia out-rebounded the Orange 42-20. Virginia had 15 second-chance points, and 32 points in the paint.
  • Despite the slow start, Virginia ended the game shooting 46.2% -- but I guess when you're taking so many high percentage shots in the paint, your game total will look pretty good.
  • Chino Obokoh entered the game for Rakeem Christmas with one minute remaining in the game, so Rak could get a final standing ovation from the Carrier Dome crowd. It was obviously a frustrating moment for Rak, who didn't play his best game and would rather have walked off with a win.
  • For the first time this season, Kaleb Joseph did not start the game. In his place in the starting lineup was BJ Johnson, putting the point guard responsibilities on Michael Gbinije. It's clear Boeheim isn't happy with Joseph's play, effectively removing him from the Duke game and only playing him for three minutes against Virginia.
  • The move to point I think had a negative effect on Gbinije's offensive production -- he only scored eight points, despite taking eleven shots from the floor. While it's too early to say who will have ball-handling duties next season, what's clear is that Gbinije needs to be able to score the way he has for the majority of this season.
And so, the home slate ends. Props to SU Athletics for properly spelling Rak's name on his commemorative jersey & plaque, and for featuring him on the senior night game ticket. I guess they can get some things right. Syracuse closes out its regular season (and, indeed, its entire season) on Saturday at NC State.

As this recap is being composed on Friday, March 6, I'd be remiss to not at least briefly mention the report issued by the NCAA Committee on Infractions today. The COI found Syracuse committed a number of major infractions, and instituted sanctions including five years probation, a loss of three scholarships for each of four years, a nine-game suspension of Boeheim effective at the start of conference play next season, vacating of several program wins (exact number yet to be determined), and financial penalties (and acceptance of the school's self-imposed postseason ban for this year). I've read the entire 94-page report. Many of the violations are not in issue -- they were admitted by the University. But it's clear that the biggest disagreements between the school and the NCAA center around institutional control and extent of sanctions. The written response by the school, as well as individual responses from the chancellor, athletic director, board of trustees, and Boeheim, all seem to indicate that the University is all but certain to exercise its right to appeal the decision. And of course, after any appeals, this case will inevitably end up in court where, if precedent means anything (looking your way, Penn State), a settlement will result in a decrease in scholarship loss, a (partial) restoration of vacated wins, and a lessening of financial sanctions. But maybe we're getting way ahead of ourselves.

For as bad as we all think this is (and, yes, it's pretty bad), let's remember a few things. Syracuse faces no postseason bans other than this season. Syracuse retains its 2003 National Championship. Syracuse didn't get a death penalty. Even if the current sanctions stay in place, Syracuse can still put together phenomenal teams that can compete at the highest level. Syracuse can get through this.

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