Triche stood and watched the ball go in, and then, slump-shouldered, watched the Hoosiers celebrate. Final score: Indiana 74, Syracuse 73.
The photographs of that moment still haunt Triche. The questions — What did that feel like? What could he have done differently — still fly.
“We’ll never be able to get revenge,” Triche said nearly three decades later, the same week that Brandon Triche, his nephew, will try to redirect the family’s narrative on Thursday in Syracuse’s Sweet 16 matchup against Indiana at Verizon Center.
They never spoke much about that game. Holidays and visits came and went, and Triche stayed silent about what happened on March 30, 1987, nearly four years before his nephew was born. He played one-on-one with Brandon sometimes, but when discussions turned to Syracuse basketball, Smart’s shot never surfaced.
“We never really talked about Indiana,” said Brandon, now a senior guard for the Orange, “or what happened.”
After Howard Triche’s final college game, he returned to Central New York. His family had settled there years earlier, and there was no escape from Howard’s worst sports moment. If anything, private moments with his family offered sanctuary.
“It’s just one of those things,” Howard said, “that no one close really brings it up or talks about it. They know you felt bad about the game, about the circumstances. It’s been a long time, so there’s no sense of bringing it up.”
When Brandon was considering playing at Syracuse after starring at nearby Jamesville-Dewitt High, the whispers found him, too.
Some confused him for his uncle, calling for him by the wrong name. The story of Howard’s role in Syracuse’s lingering disappointment, not erased until the Orange’s first national championship in 2003, made its way to Brandon.
“Howard, Howard!” he recalled hearing. “No, that was 25 years ago.”
He called his uncle once, and Howard shared supportive words. They might be calling him Howard as a freshman, but by the time his career with the Orange was finished, they would remember his name.
“They’ll be saying ‘Brandon’s uncle,’ ” Howard recalled saying, “rather than ‘Howard’s nephew.’ ”
Over time, Brandon became one of the Orange’s most dependable players. Now a senior, he will start his 144th consecutive game Thursday, a streak spanning his entire career. No Syracuse player has appeared in more victories than Brandon, who has been on the court for 119 of them.
“I came to Syracuse with the main goal of winning,” Brandon said Wednesday at Verizon Center.