Syracuse, Arizona State Earn First-Round Victories in Men's NCAA Tournament
Saturday, March 21, 2009
MIAMI, March 20 -- The thousands of orange-shirted Syracuse fans who came out for their team's NCAA tournament opener against Stephen F. Austin on Friday rarely left their seats. Many sat with their arms crossed, occasionally clapping but never roaring.
Syracuse's fans weren't miserable. They were just bored silly.
The Orange, the No. 3 seed in the South Region, dominated 14th-seeded Stephen F. Austin from the start, cruising to a 59-44 victory that didn't overtax a group of players still trying to recover from seven overtime periods in their last three games in the Big East tournament. Syracuse will face Arizona State in Sunday's second round.
"We didn't play up to our potential," Stephen F. Austin Coach Danny Kaspar said. "I think there was a bad case of the shakes for some of us."
Speedy guard Jonny Flynn led the Orange with 16 points, and forwards Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson added 12 each. Benson Akpan led Stephen F. Austin, making its first NCAA tournament appearance, with 12 points off the bench.
"They're happy to be here," Flynn said. "We're happy to be here as well, but we have a mission. . . . We wanted to come out here and make a statement and really make a run at this tournament."
This didn't seem like a fair fight from the start. Stephen F. Austin sent out a 5-foot-3 guard, Eric Bell, and a lean front line that gave up nearly 100 pounds to its burly Syracuse counterparts. The Lumberjacks' fans, who had to travel all the way from Nacogdoches, Tex., were vastly outnumbered.
It was clear from the looks of things that if Stephen F. Austin had any hopes of playing Cinderella, its smaller squad needed to slow down Syracuse -- which leads the nation in field goals -- and hit its shots, especially open looks from outside.
But neither part of that strategy unfolded as planned. Or, in fact, at all.
"We got off to such a good start," Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim said. "They got off to such a bad shooting start. They couldn't do anything."
-- ARIZONA STATE 66, TEMPLE 57: The Sun Devils got just one field goal from Pacific-10 player of the year James Harden, a projected lottery pick, yet still held off a late run from a pesky Owls squad in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Harden, who averaged 20.8 points per game this season, did not hit a field goal until less than five minutes remained and scored just nine points on 1 of 8 field goals. He hit 6 of 9 free throws, four of them in the last 4 minutes 44 seconds.
"It was just one of those games," Harden said. "My shot wasn't falling. My teammates picked it up."
Temple closed to 52-49 with 6:57 remaining when guard Dionte Christmas put back an offensive rebound. Christmas scored 29 for the Owls, who also lost in the first round of the tournament last year.
Christmas made 5 of 11 threes and grabbed three steals. Only one other Owl, Lavoy Allen, scored in double figures (11 points).
"If you would have told us James Harden would end up with nine points, if you would have told me I would have 29 points . . . and we'd lose the game, I would have looked at your like you was crazy," Christmas said.