Written for your enjoyment by: Ray Curren
What do you get when 35,000 people survive the snow and show up at the Carrier Dome? What do you get when the No. 4 and No. 8 teams in the USA Today poll meet? What do you get with No. 1 in the nation on the line (possibly)? What do you get when I ask so many questions?
A running diary, of course. Syracuse-Villanova, next on ESPN.
Pregame - Erin Andrews interviews both coaches. Boeheim reminds her that he's coached 68 games with crowds of 30,000 or more in the Dome. Jay Wright looks calm, says he'll stay calm. We'll see how long that lasts.
Hubert picks Villanova, Digger goes with Syracuse. No stupid hat for Hubert, so the crowd pays him little mind.
9:00 - Dan Shulman (Canadian), Bob Knight (Curmudgeon), and Jay Bilas (Dukee) on the call. At least we have a Canadian in there.
9:01 - "Wesley Johnson getting healthier" according to Shulman. I hope we see it tonight.
9:02 - Erin Andrews waving an orange towel in the "worst seat in the house". Might need that pic if someone has it.
9:03 - Stupid ESPN montages that people spent hours on, but last 30 seconds. Did I mention that ESPN rules the world? So I should probably shut up.
9:05 - Oh my God, that's the "Dome Ranger's" music. Pulling out all the stops tonight.
9:06 - Villanova goes with a little more size, but that could be a big problem for them tonight if SU can stay out of foul trouble and deal with Villanova's pressure.
9:07 - Cuse goes inside, and Arinze is fouled 10 seconds in.
9:08 - Shaky start for both teams, Rautins steal and turnover, back-to-back turnovers for Villanova, where no one wanted to shoot. 2-0 Cuse early.
9:13 - Nova leads 11-9 at the first official TO. Choatic start, as you'd expect with 35,000 people in the house. For some reason, Scottie Reynolds passed up a bunch of shots on the first two possessions, then drained back-to-back 3s. He should really shoot every possession if he's open. That's their best chance. Oh, that and stealing the ball and getting layups. Jackson can do what he wants inside, but they have to get him the ball. Right now, Triche and Rautins can't dribble the ball without turning it over. Can someone else (looking at you Mr. Jardine)? We shall see.
9:21 - Dominick Cheek, ladies and gentlemen. A one-handed jam on a putback. Villanova leads 18-12, time out Syracuse. They look completely lost on the offensive end, and it looks like Nova is not going to help much (good strategy, IMO). 12:31 to go first half. They must get Arinze and Jackson involved. And maybe Kris Joseph. Out of the time out, Corey Fisher steals and gets fouled going to the basket.
9:26 - Stokes and Jardine trade 3s. Big 3 for the Cuse from Jardine who was down 9 at the time. He rushed a 3 on the next possession, but I like the tempo change. They need to push. Frenetic, says Shulman, but I think the Cuse - at home - needs that right now. Jardine coast-to-coast to cut the lead to 4. Time out, Villanova, 23-19, 10:16 to go first half. I'm worried about Stokes and Reynolds shooting. But I'm always worried about shooters for the Cuse. Bilas and Knight say Cuse needs to get it inside more. Well, duh, they're trying, they just can't hold on to the ball long enough.
9:27 - Joseph flies through the air and gets fouled hard. Replays show it wasn't that bad, although Joseph fell hard. Official TO, still 23-19 Nova. 9:51 to go in the half.
9:32 - Arinze gets called for a bogus block and this time Joseph turns it over. 8th turnover for the Cuse in 11 minutes. 25-20 Nova.
9:33 - Derrick Coleman in a suit, Pearl Washington in sweats. Probably would have said other way around 20 years ago, no?
9:34 - Knight wants patience, Bilas says the zone is out too far. Have these guys actually watched Syracuse play this season?
9:35 - Cuse missing free throws. Must be the alumni effect.
9:36 - Official TO, Nova leads 25-22, 7:12 left in the half, Nova at the line. Cuse had a few good looks including a wide-open 3 from Rautins that was short. Nova also cold at the other end, but they are getting back on defense well thus far and not being hurt in transition. They're also being remarkably patient on offense for them. Good strategy? I'm torn right now, but it is throwing Cuse off so far.
9:40 - Cuse finally gets in inside for Arinze to make a layup and he airballs the and-1. Nova has done a good job finding Rautins and he's getting frustrated.
9:42 - Unlucky possession for Cuse on defense, who stripped Fisher but it bounced to Pena who was fouled by Arinze, his second. 28-24 Nova.
9:44 - Jardine hits an impossible 3 to bring the Cuse within 1. Hey, Wesley Johnson is still on our team, right? Haven't even seen him in about 15 minutes.
9:45 - Reynolds rushes a shot, and Cuse finally gets a runout. Jardine draws the defense, dishes to Joseph who dunks it home. Cuse leads 31-30, timeout Nova, 4:34 to go in the half.
9:47 - Back-to-back calls go against Cuse. First, Triche pushed out of bounds. Then, Johnson is horsecollared as he is about to dunk. He doesn't fall, but no flagrant on that? Oh, wait, it's old-man Jim Burr. Really embarassing he's still doing high-profile games, it really is. Johnson headed to the line, 31-30 Cuse, 3:34 to go in the half.
9:50 - More free throw misses from Cuse. Johnson is not healthy, folks, he's not. Sorry.
9:52 - Finally, a call for the Cuse, Johnson is fouled on an offensive rebound. Nova is 1 for their last 16 from the field. Still think the zone is out too high, Knight? Bilas says Cuse is underrated in transition. Really? That's all they do, isn't it. 36-30 Cuse, 2:40 to go first half. Big period coming up.
9:53 - King hits a 3 for Nova, but Cuse is getting it back inside, Jackson with a layup. Another runout, but Rautins misses the layup. Luckily, he was fouled. He hasn't had a good first half. 40-33 Cuse, 1:58 to go in the half.
9:55- Reynolds from the parking lot with a huge 3 takes the air out of the building momentarily. That's a big shot. Good luck guarding that guy at the end of a close game in the NCAA Tournament. Cuse making their last few free throws, Jardine hits 2, 42-36 Cuse.
9:56 - Jardine with a big pull-up. Nova holds for one shot. Reynolds with a long, contested 3. Johnson skies to get the rebound and gets run over with 4.9 seconds to go in the half. Wright not happy. Johnson hits both, Fisher misses a shot at the buzzer, and Cuse closes to half with a 20-6 run to lead 46-36 at the half. Pretty impressive stretch at the end of the half.
9:58 - Wright bemoans the fact that his team isn't making any shots. But the zone is out too high, right? Jardine has 12 to lead the Cuse. Really haven't played great, but lead by 10, although Nova is obviously still dangerous.
10:14 - Second half time. Rautins and Johnson are both 1-for-4 from the field, by the way. Johnson has 8 points, Rautins 4. Villanova has not pressed of yet, which is somewhat surprising to me, we don't exactly make great decisions with our passes. I think we'll see more of that in the second half. Nova ball to start the second half.
10:15 - A putback from Pena on the first possession. Bad sign. Rautins answers with a 3. Good sign.
10:17 - Nova goes inside on 3 straight possessions for layups. Shows what I know, they're within 6, but Johnson hits a 3. Thank God, we're going to need him to do that if we're going anywhere in the tournaments. 52-43 Cuse, 18:00 to go, straight up.
10:21 - Rautins drains a 3 off a Joseph offensive rebound. 59-48 Cuse, timeout Nova, 15:41 to go. You know, the Big East has a reputation as a physical conference and all, but here are the two best teams in the Big East, and this is pretty basketball to watch. Lots of great offense, good teamwork, etc. I think that day might have passed for the Big East. Well, there's still West Virginia. And Cincinnati. And Pittsburgh. Aw, forget it.
10:23 - Cuse just needs to stop second chances and take care of the ball, and I think they'll be OK.
10:24 - Reason #206 why Cuse should only need 7 or 8 players: 10 seconds are played, Rautins commits a foul away from the ball, and it's the official timeout. Bleah.
10:29 - Joseph hits 2 free throws. They've been good there since I made that comment. 61-50 Cuse, 14:54 to go.
10:32 - Knight can't add, 63-52 is somehow a 13-point lead. Well, now it is, Arinze with his second straight putback for the Cuse. Ball goes out of bounds, Nova looks rattled, 65-52 Cuse with 11:42 to go. Official timeout. Nova is down, but are they out? We've seen some big comebacks in the Big East this year already.
10:37 - Villanova goes with the trap for the first time tonight, and it gets them the ball off a quick shot, but a charge at the other end makes up for it.
10:38 - Mouphatou Yarou from Benin is keeping Nova in the game. That's right, Mouphatou Yarou. He blocked Jardine when it looked like a sure layup.
10:39 - Chance #4 is put home from Arinze and the lead is 15, 67-52 with 10:20 to go. Rautins takes the defense away and finds Jackson for a dunk. Good stuff. 69-54. Cuse has 17 offensive rebounds in the game.
10:41 - Reynolds scores. Don't let him get hot, 69-56.
10:42 - At the other end, Arinze gets offensive rebound #18 and scores as he's falling to the ground. Impressive and a highlight certainly. Maybe he should try that on the free throw, he was fouled, too. Made that, too. 72-56 with 8:54 to go.
10:43 - Rautins to Arinze again for a dunk. How is he that open? That's for Jay Wright to figure out. Can he make this free throw? Yes. 75-58 with 8:19 left.
10:44 - Official timeout. 75-58, but Nova headed to the line. If there's one problem for the Cuse, it's on the defensive glass. They're going to need to figure that out. Still a long way to go, but it's a big lead.
10:47 - Finally, Nova goes zone press. Took long enough.
10:48 - Cuse taking bad shots, but it doesn't matter because they're getting every offensive rebound. Three in that series, 21 for the game. Ridiculous. Johnson hits both free throws, 77-59 with 7:16 to go.
10:49 - Taylor King has range, long 3 there. Joseph answers with a 3. If he hits those consistently, you can book a place in the Final Four for the Cuse. Really.
10:51 - Jackson misses the dunk, but gets fouled. Methinks this might not be a fun film session tomorrow or Monday for Villanova. Wright will be using some interesting language there. Jackson makes 1 of 2.
10:52 - Everyone is celebrating, but this game isn't over yet. Easy layup from Yarou inside to cut it to 15, still a long way to go here people.
10:53 - Then a Rautins steal and Jardine is ahead of the pack. Dagger, as Bill Raftery would say. Timeout Nova, 83-66 with 5:03 to go. One timeout left for Nova.
10:55 - A Jardine layup off a scramble followed by Rautins talking trash. Love it. Nova does get a dunk to cut it to 85-68 with 3:06 left, but the only question left may be: Do they or do they not rush the court?
10:59 - Coleman taking video on his cell phone. He can't afford a better camera? Someone give him one.
11:00 - Joseph to the goal for an and-1. Villanova has really had no answer for anything Syracuse has done offensively tonight, none. And Johnson really hasn't done much tonight at all (2-of-11 from the field).
11:01 - One more dunk from Jackson. Why not? Nova calls its final timeout. Cuse leads by 21, 89-68.
11:03 - "Dome Ranger" has a throwback jersey. That's pretty cool.
11:04 - Villanova pulls its starters, probably wise. Jackson gets a layup.
11:05 - OK, we have a 20-point lead with 1:14 to go, we can let some other people play, Jimmy B. Don't want to see anyone get hurt here.
11:06 - Rautins makes 2 free throws and gets a standing ovation as he comes out of the game, 93-71 Cuse. Maybe we can get the 100 that we failed to get against Providence if Villanova keeps fouling. There's absolutely no reason that Johnson should be in the game, by the way. Finally, he comes out with exactly a minute to go.
11:08 - Yarou gets another bucket. This game won't end.
11:09 - Nova still fouling down 94-74 with 29 seconds to go. Obviously they don't have anywhere to go.
11:11 - And, finally, it's over. 95-77 Cuse wins, and the students stay off the floor. Good job by them.
11:12 - Boeheim says they played good defense, which is partly true, but Villanova couldn't stop them. At all.
11:13 - It's a great night to be an Orange fan (or alumnus). They should rise to No. 1 in the land when the polls come out tomorrow and Monday. And you can't get any higher than that.
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