It was 80’s day at the Carrier Dome on Saturday. People dressed in their favorite throwback garb-acid washed denim jackets, parachute pants, scrunchies, leggings with skirts, and big earrings, just to name a few.
The 1980’s were one of the greatest decades of Syracuse basketball. Names like Pearl Washington, Sherman Douglas, Rony Seikaly and Derrick Coleman embodied Orange hoops. And of course, it was 1987 that Syracuse played for its first-ever National Championship in New Orleans, which ended in a heartbreaking loss in the final seconds of the game to Bobby Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers.
Seven months after SU’s championship run, George Michael’s number one hit “Faith” was released.
Faith. Perhaps it’s time to have some faith with this year’s version of the Orange.
“If you’re with us, you’re with us. If you’re not, you’re not,” said freshman Taurean Thompson, who logged just seven minutes in the game, getting into early foul trouble. “Like Coach said, a lot of people gave up on us. Well, when we start winning, we don’t want them to come back on board. We only want the people who’ve been there.”
Syracuse has had some ugly losses and some not so pretty wins this season. Fans have jumped off the bandwagon, but perhaps they are back on with SU’s 82-72 upset of No. 6 Florida State in front of the second largest crowd (24, 978) in the country this season to watch a basketball game (SU vs. Georgetown was the first). The win was SU’s first regular-season win over a ranked team since beating 25th ranked Notre Dame exactly one year ago at the Dome. SU has been 0-3 against ranked teams this season.
Saturday’s win was certainly a statement win for sure in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. And, with a 13-9 record heading into February, there’s hope.
“It’s big obviously because it’s a resume booster, but more importantly, it’s a win in the ACC, which puts us in the positive for right now,” claimed graduate transfer Andrew White. “You want to take every win and every good game to propel you as far forward as possible and I think this will give us the most momentum possible going into a tough road test that we’re going to face. I say this week to week, the momentum shifts are so drastic so hopefully we’ll keep this one in the right direction.”
White had another solid game for the Orange (has scored in double figures in 21 of SU’s 22 games this season). He led the team in scoring on Saturday with 24 points, including hitting four three pointers against the Seminoles. He also recorded his best defensive game-of the season, picking up four steals.
“I thought he made a couple good steals, had nine rebounds, eight defensive rebounds, and that’s outstanding. He was really good there, and he still was really good on offense. I think he’s getting better all the time,” head coach Jim Boeheim said.
Speaking of rebounding, Syracuse outrebounded the second tallest team in the nation, 42-39.
“Well we ended up being up overall, which is surprising for us against that size that they have,” Boeheim stated. “If we just go anywhere near breaking even, to five down against them, then that’s pretty good. We’re happy with that.”
Sophomore Tyler Lydon led the team in boards with 11. He scored 14 points, hitting two key three-point shots and what may be the dunk of the year for Syracuse. It was his sixth double-double of the season and 11th in his career. Lydon’s six blocked shots equaled his career-best effort.
“He’s one of the best defensive players we’ve ever had,” Boeheim said. “He’s really probably better than some of the great centers we’ve had because he covers more people, more ground, and still can block shots. Everybody was concerned about him playing center when he came here, but he’s really one of the best we’ve had in there. He’s just phenomenal.”
In Syracuse’s last three games, Lydon is averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds.
“I want to do whatever it takes to help this team win,”Lydon shared. “It was Drew’s night. He was shooting the ball great again. John got in there and made a bunch of big plays. I wasn’t trying to force anything. I was just trying to take what the defense gives me and go out and make plays whether it’s defense or offense.”
Another bright spot was graduate student John Gillon’s play. He had 21 points, including hitting 13 for 14 from the line down the stretch. He also added 11 assists.
“We’ve been trying all year to get him in the lane and find people instead of trying to take a shot, and he’s doing better at that; but we know when he gets fouled, that he’s a very, very good foul shooter,” Boeheim said.
Syracuse travels to North Carolina State on Wednesday. The Orange has not won a conference game on the road this season. The FSU win is certainly a good confidence booster, especially heading into the final stretch of the season.
“You never want to get too comfortable, especially playing in the ACC,” White said. “We’ve got a good team waiting for us next week, and we have something we need to prove to people on the road. It’s two wins (Wake Forest last Tuesday) much needed, so we’re going to enjoy these, but hopefully we can use these to keep in the right direction. I think that’s more so the focus than anything.”
You got to have faith.