March 20, 2009
MIAMI, Fla. -
Stephen F. Austin assistant director of media relations Brian Ross will be blogging along with the Lumberjacks in their NCAA Championship showdown with Syracuse. Follow the action here, or listen to today's broadcast live at the Q107.7 Web site. (Click "Listen Live" once you get there.) Tournament games will also be streamed live at CBSSports.com.
We're on the floor for warm-ups. The crowd is trickling in, and the countdown clock is creeping toward 47 minutes. Rob Meyers is concerned about the background locker room noise in his pre-game interview. Other than that, we look okay. The guys looked loose and relaxed at the hotel this morning.
By the by, if this blog happens to update less frequently than the "Live" tag would indicate, that's because the software I'm using isn't exactly suited to this kind of thing. (Just keep hitting refresh. I get an annual bonus based on page views.)
In a bit of sad news, I have to report that we're playing a man down today. Junior power forward Aaron Smith is out of uniform and on crutches today after injuring a foot in yesterday's closed practice.
I just got my first, "Holy cow, where did you guys find that Lumberjack mascot?" question. If you've never had the pleasure of meeting Steve the Lumberjack, he goes about 6-5 and at least two-and-a-half spins. His forearms are about the size of my thighs. I say "about" because a precise comparison would involve an awkward situation. I'll say this and only this about the Syracuse Orange character. If it came down to a physical confrontation between mascots today, I think the 'Cuse would find itself heading back to New York.
Off to a fantastic start. I flat missed the national anthem, since I was making my pre-game restroom stop at the time. But, when I get back to my seat, I find that one of the basketballs from warm-ups has rolled under the skirt in front of my table and come to rest right where my feet are supposed to be. I retrieve it and launch a pass to the floor manager across the way. I now lead the American Airlines Arena media table in assists for this tournament.
The teams leave the court for a final pep talk following the anthem. Syracuse is back and launching jumpers, as our band serenades them with some tuneage and ridicules any misses. The Orange do some hopping around, then conclude their pre-game with a team huddle. Jim Boeheim has just taken the court.
The Lumberjacks are in the house. Josh Alexander leads us onto the court with about a minute left on the pregame countdown clock. As always, Josh waits for everyone else to head for the bench, then sinks one last layup and makes his way over.
Introductions are over. It's time for tip. Matt Kingsley will jump it against Arinze Onuaku at center court. We're outsized, to say the least.
We win the tip but fail to score on our first two possessions, despite getting the ball inside against that tough zone defense. Syracuse scores on its first tip, but turns it over on the next trip down.
Syracuse goes ahead, 6-0, before Nick Shaw knocks down a couple of free throws. He got fouled on the block after Matt found him with a good pass. We're taking our time on offense, which is a good sign. Syracuse just turned it over for the second time.
First media timeout. They're two-and-a-half minutes long at the Tournament, so hopefully we can take a moment to calm ourselves down a little. We've turned it over on each of our last two possessions. We're not built to play from behind, so we need to throw up a couple of stops and get some shots to fall.
Syracuse finally misses a shot. They opened 3-for-3. We run a set called "up" at the other end. I only recognize it because it ends with an alley-oop lob pass to Josh Alexander running the baseline. The pass is a little high, and Josh can't bring it in.
Eddie Williams picks up his second foul with 13:43 to play. Girod Adams and Walt Harris check in for Williams and Eric Bell. We're down, 12-2, and have yet to knock down a shot from the field.
We get our first field goal on a Josh Alexander reverse layup. Syracuse answers with an oop at the other end to keep its 10-point margin.
THIS JUST IN: Jonny Flynn's a player. He's broken us down with the bounce in two of the Orange's last three touches, first dumping it off for a dunk, the second time going all the way to the rim for a finger roll. Syracuse is up, 18-4 with 10:45 to play at the second media timeout.
Benson Akpan checks in and we go big with both Bennie and Matt in the game. Benson knocks down a turnaround jumper in the lane after nearly having the ball slapped from his hands in mid-air. On the next SFA touch, Benson rebounds a miss and lays one in. 22-8, Syracuse.
Walt Harris sticks a fallaway jumper from the baseline. After a Syracuse turnover, Josh puts in a layup, and we've made four of our last five shots. 24-12 Syracuse. 7:46 remaining after the media break.
Benson cans a turnaround jumper and now leads us with six points. Josh just rebounded his own missed three but couldn't get the follow to go down. Syracuse answers with a long jumper by Paul Harris to make it a 29-14 game with 5:39 to play.
Benson gets to the rim for a layup. He's 4-for-4 from the field. After a couple of empty possessions for both teams, Eric draws a charging foul against Eric Devendorf. Devendorf knocks down a triple in transition on the next possession, but Kingsley scores his first field goal at the other end. 36-18 Syracuse. 2:20 to play.
Eric swipes one from Devendorf and pushes it ahead to Nick Shaw. Nick is fouled going to the rack and will shoot free throws on the other side of the final media timeout of the half.
Nick gets both foul shots to go, bringing the margin back to 18. Girod Adams pokes the ball away from Devendord (now running the point for Syracuse). Josh runs the floor and lays it in. Devendorf turns it over on the next possession, but we come away empty-handed after a couple of missed tip-ins. The Orange take a timeout with a 38-22 lead and 22.7 seconds to play.
We hold on the final possession of the half and go to the locker room down, 38-22. Just the fifth time this season we've found ourselves trailing at the half. We're 1-3, so far in such games. I'll be back after the break.
Syracuse opens the second half with three straight buckets inside. The lid has been moved from the other basket to keep it on top of our hoop as we change ends for the second period. We're 0-for-3.
Syracuse has moved out to a 46-24 advantage at the first media timeout. The 22-point lead is the largest of the game.
Nick Shaw shows some athleticism, running the baseline for a two-handed dunk. Benson fed him from the high post on the play. We get a stop at the other end. Nick keeps our ensuing possession alive with an offensive board, then drops in a layup off the inbounds play.
Josh Alexander is struggling from the field. Unofficially, I don't have him with a bucket from outside six feet. He's 0-for-7 from 3-point range, and we're 0-for-15 as a team from distance. He's still playing hard, just not effectively. Hate to see it in what might be his final game.
No sooner do I lament our 3-point shooting troubles than Walt Harris drains our first three-ball of the day. Let me try something: We're not getting many rebounds, either. * fingers crossed *
We cut the lead down to 15 on back-to-back baskets following Harris' 3-pointer. But Jonny Flynn runs the floor and lays one in to quiet the purple-clad faithful. A few minutes later, he connects with Paul Harris on a lob play that put Syracuse back in front by 21 (56-35) with 8:02 to play.
The only starters left on the floor for SFA are Nick Shaw and Girod Adams. They're joined by Jereal Scott, Zach Williams and Jarrod McDaniel. Zach just knocked down a three (our second of the game) to make it a 59-42 game with under a minute left.
Classy move by Coach Kaspar. He clears the bench and makes sure everybody has a chance to play today. We end the game with the following lineup: Jereal Scott, Jarrod McDaniel, Cameron James, Preston Davis and Austin Falke.
Syracuse pulls it back and dribbles out the clock on a 59-44 win. Thanks for reading. More to come later.
With the post-game media commitments behind us, it's time to start thinking about the trip back. We're staying to watch the first half of the second game, then heading for the hotel. The travel folks have us on a flight home late tonight. I'm bushed. This will probably be it, as far as blogging goes, on this trip. Game story (most likely with an Associated Press byline) coming soon.
-- SFA --