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Reviewing the First Two Rounds

March 25, 2003 Columns No Comments

Reviewing the First Two Rounds

by Phil Kasiecki

Looking at the roster of the Syracuse Orangemen, you see several players who can beat you. There’s Carmelo Anthony, the super freshman we all know about. There’s Hakim Warrick, the sophomore forward who is an intriguing prospect in the mold of former Syracuse forward Damone Brown, and the Big East’s Most Improved Player this season. The team has one senior, Kueth Duany, an excellent athlete who can score on the move or from long range. And let’s not forget Gerry McNamara, another promising freshman who has run the show very well all season long and is automatic at the free throw line.

But none of them beat Oklahoma State on Sunday, even though they all had their moments. The bench won this game, with such big names as Billy Edelin, Josh Pace and Jeremy McNeil. After a terrible start, where the Orangemen fell behind 14-2 and trailed by double digits most of the first half, they came back to win going away, 68-56.

No slight to the three players mentioned – all are very capable Division I players, though McNeil normally plays limited minutes for good reason – but anyone who came to the FleetCenter this weekend didn’t figure to see these three players as the primary reason for Syracuse being in the Sweet 16.

Edelin has been a steady reserve since he became eligible in midseason, but on Sunday he was the team’s high scorer with 20 points on 8-12 shooting. He scored baskets at key junctures and usually on the move, which helped open up the game away from the basket for Anthony and McNamara. His point total is his second-best output of the season.

Pace didn’t finish with big numbers – 6 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals – but he scored his points in the early going, when the Orangemen struggled mightily at the offensive end, made plays at critical points of the game, and gave them another ball handler later in the game. He certainly gave them a needed boost when he came in the game.

McNeil normally plays limited minutes because he’s a very undisciplined shot-blocker. Sure, he blocks 3 shots per game in just over 18 minutes, but he also leads the team in fouls and commits more fouls than he blocks shots, largely because he bites on pump fakes and gets in trouble as a result. But on Sunday, he played perhaps the game of a lifetime, with 4 blocks and 7 rebounds in 32 minutes, and his presence in the second half changed any ideas that Cowboys players had about going to the basket. He played so well that Jim Boeheim never went with starting center Craig Forth in the second half.

Anthony had 11 of his 13 points in the second half, after he struggled in the first half and picked up three fouls, but he was 5-16 from the field. McNamara once again showed his toughness, as he had to leave the court for several minutes due to a gash above his nose, but he came back and proceeded to drop a dagger into the Cowboys with two clutch three-pointers that put the game away. He made four three-pointers in the second half, all of them at critical junctures, en route to 14 points and 6 assists.

With production like this from the bench, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Orangemen, playing close to home in Albany next weekend, end up in New Orleans in two weeks.

Other Boston Notes

• With Pittsburgh also winning earlier on Sunday, the Big East improved to 8-0 overall in the NCAA Tournament, and now has all four teams in the Sweet 16 to top all conferences. The Panthers look as good as anyone right now, as they had a relatively easy time in both games and got balanced scoring. Not bad for a conference that only got four teams in the tournament.

• In Oklahoma State’s first round win over Pennsylvania, the Cowboys did an excellent job on the Quakers’ three-point shooters. The Quakers were 8-18 from long range, but many shots were contested and shooters like Jeff Schiffner and Tim Begley did not get the open looks they have grown accustomed to.

• In Sunday’s semifinal game, four Indiana starters played at least 38 minutes, and A.J. Moye played just 8 minutes off the bench. He didn’t give the Hoosiers the lift he normally does, as he didn’t score and committed 3 fouls.

• The sold-out weekend saw good crowds during most games, though the stands had plenty of empty seats at times on Friday. Not surprisingly, the team that seemed to have the smallest following was Oklahoma State, the school located farther from Boston than any other that played this weekend.


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