NEW YORK — There was a striking lack of a consistent buzz among the near sell-out crowd at an almost completely renovated Madison Square Garden for Wednesday afternoon’s post-season opener for the Orange marking the finale in Big East play after 34 wonderful years of memories, and, for the most part, victories.
Maybe it’s the physical layout of the building’s new interior, mandating ultra-high priced seats down close segregated from the other sections, and the sheer number of club seats and luxury suites that may cut down on the noise.
And for a while Wednesday, there simply wasn’t a lot to cheer about for the usual orange majority on hand as it took a second-half wake-up call to finally get past Seton Hall 75-63 to move on to the quarterfinals Thursday against Pittsburgh, a final 20-minute performance that brought back memories of the offense during the pre-James Southerland suspension stretch of the season, as both seniors Southerland and Brandon Triche seemingly regained the strut to their shooting touch combing for 37-points.
“Our offensive movement was the best it’s been probably all year, said a satisfied Jim Boeheim afterwards when not being asked repeatedly about making a final Big East Tournament appearance. “We really moved the ball.”
In particular, Michael Carter-Williams, who looked like the cool customer that led the country in assists for the first two months-plus of the season as he deftly found open teammates time and again to the tune of a tournament record-tying 14 assists.
“If we get good spacing, if we get good screens, we’re able to score on anybody,” Carter-Williams proclaimed matter-of-factly in the ‘Cuse locker room. “We were able to hit shots today, and that’s what we’ve got to continue to do.”
Easy enough, right?
Only problem is that in less than 24 hours it is a meeting with a Pittsburgh program SU is 3-10 against the last decade following a 10-point road loss on Feb. 2. In that game, minus a suspended Southerland, the Panthers out-rebounded SU by nine and made shooting from distance miserable as SU missed 11 of its 14 three-point attempts.
We’ll see if a game under their belts with some new found shooting confidence turns the tide on a Pittsburgh team that’s been waiting to play, and continues the final New York story for yet another day.