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April 8, 2003 Columns No Comments

The Morning Dish – Tuesday, April 8th, 2003

by Phil Kasiecki

The third time was the charm for Jim Boeheim. He lost his first two national championship game appearances, but on Monday night, he broke through as Syracuse took home the national championship with an 81-78 victory over Kansas.

The Orangemen ran out to an early lead, dominating most of the first half and shooting 55% from the floor en route to a 53-42 halftime lead. The 53 points are a new record for points in a half of a championship game. Kansas couldn’t stop the Orangemen, and as a result, had no chances to get transition baskets — an important part of the game. Gerry McNamara, the lesser-heralded Syracuse freshman, had 18 points in the half on 6-8 shooting on three-pointers — and they weren’t just shots right by the line.

But any good team will have a run in them, and Kansas certainly had that. They would get within three on several occasions, but could never get closer. A key point was when they got within 61-58, but turned the ball over after forcing a Syracuse turnover. The Orangemen then went on an 11-2 run to stretch the lead to 12.

Kansas mounted another rally, and Syracuse missed several free throws that gave them more chances. That was ironic considering the Jayhawks shot themselves in the foot all night long at the line, making just 12 of 30 free throws. With one second left, Hakim Warrick, who had just missed two free throws at the other end, blocked a Michael Lee three-point attempt, then Kirk Hinrich’s last-second three was off the mark. Syracuse held on for the win.

Kirk Hinrich struggled on the night and re-sprained his ankle, but true to form he kept battling and nearly tied the game on a three-pointer in the final minute that went in and out. He finished the game with 16 points; fellow senior Nick Collison had a monster game with 19 points, 21 rebounds and 3 blocked shots before fouling out, and Keith Langford matched Collison’s team-high point total on 7-9 shooting.

McNamara wouldn’t score in the second half, but he didn’t need to. Carmelo Anthony battled a bad back en route to a 20-point, 10-rebound, 7-assist effort that earned him the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. He became the third freshman ever to do so. Billy Edelin (12 points) and Kueth Duany (11) also reached double figures for the Orangemen, who lost just one time all season when Duany reached double figures.

After the game, Roy Williams was interviewed by Bonnie Bernstein of CBS, who asked him about the job opening at North Carolina at the end of the interview. It was a terrible time to ask such a question in the first place, but the way she brought it up was not the best as well. She said, “Very undrestandably, you didn’t want to address this issue during the week, but many people out there, with the game over, want to know what you level of interest is in the North Carolina job coach.” The normally easy-going Williams was not happy, and in his response he mentioned that it was a poor time to ask such a question. But Bernstein didn’t stop there, as she pressed him further about it. Williams than snapped, saying, “I haven’t thought about that for one second,” before ending with an expletive.

Side Dishes

Crean’s Mother In Good Condition: The mother of Marquette head coach Tom Crean had a stroke during Saturday night’s game against Kansas. She was listed in good condition on Monday, and her son has spent most of his time since Saturday night with her at the Medical Center of Louisiana-Charity Hospital.

Prosser May Be Top Candidate: The Associated Press reported that Wake Forest head coach Skip Prosser may be the leading candidate to become the new head coach at Pittsburgh. Prosser, a Pittsburgh native, has taken three schools to the NCAA Tournament.

Alcorn State Names New Leader: Alcorn State promoted assistant Samuel West to the head coaching position on Monday. He will replace Dave Whitney, who retired as the winningest coach in the Southwest Athletic Conference after 27 seasons.

Tonight’s Menu:

• The women’s national championship game is tonight, as Connecticut takes on Tennessee in Atlanta at 8:37 PM Eastern.

That’s all for now. Enjoy!

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