"Where the vale of Onondaga
Game #9-163: Canisius vs. Syracuse OrangeDecember 15, 2012 7:00 pm
New York City, NY
Meets the eastern sky
Proudly stands our Alma Mater
On her hilltop high.
Flag we love! Orange! Float for aye-
Old Syracuse, o'er thee,
Loyal be thy sons and daughters
To thy memory." - Syracuse University Alma Mater
SYRACUSE, N.Y. - We never change, of course, but that doesn't mean the things around us stay static, either.
I've visited the Syracuse campus a few times in the 15 years since graduating, and I'd seen the basketball team play in various places, most notably Madison Square Garden in the Big East Tournament. But the Carrier Dome, Orange basketball, and I hadn't mixed in a long time until Saturday night.
I arrived early enough to wander around the campus, most of it was the same as I remembered it, although having no snow cover on the Quad on December 15 would have been quite strange in my day. Flipping through the radio on the way into town, I caught the first half of the Syracuse women's game and realized that they were playing at the Dome, so I raced over to catch the second half.
As a women's basketball radio broadcaster in my student days, I paid as much attention to the women's games and the men's. Problem was, the Orangewomen (that was their real nickname back then) were terrible. Not so anymore. Coach Quentin Hillsman has had five straight winning seasons, and the Orange moved to 10-1 this season by beating up on Binghamton Saturday.
I introduced myself to the current SU radio announcers and explained how we got every game on the air, even though there were some close calls, like trying to get to Miami.
"Of course, Miami was in the Big East back then," I stammered on. "And West Virginia and Notre Dame had just joined, too, so those were tough trips. And the Orangewomen, that's what they were called then, played home games at Manley Field House, not here. And the Melo Center wasn't there, either, so Manley was a little more open.."
They nodded, but I might as well have been talking about the Punic Wars. Had it been that long?
When you attend a school above the Red Line, you really don't get a good feel on how the other half lives. From my current perspective, I was amazed that in warm-ups, I couldn't really get anywhere near the court because people were four deep trying to get a close-up view of the players.
And that was the Canisius side. It was about double on the Syracuse side. About 100 Canisius students made the three-hour trek from Buffalo, and even they could barely get near the court to give moral support for their classmates. Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams is having a great season (although he didn't have the best week off the court), and was mobbed for autograph requests before the game even started. He stopped to sign a few, and immediately people ran over to snap close-range pictures, marveling that they got to see MCW in the flesh.
As I took my seat in the upper deck, and in the Carrier Dome, it's a real old-school upper deck, I realized how much like a professional team Syracuse basketball is. The only other sports in the city are minor-league, and the nearest pro team in any sport is in Buffalo.
You lose sight of that a little as a student, although sometimes I wondered if big-time athletes were held to the same standards, I had seen them around campus, and most of them were cordial, and just went about their daily business like everyone else. At least daily business, the nightly business might have been slightly different.
(A defense of the cavernous Carrier Dome as well. I always thought the Dome had a couple of things going for it as a basketball facility. First, it is unique, there isn't really anything like it elsewhere. And second, at least it's on campus. For my last two years at Syracuse, I lived just off-campus and therefore just walked to the games as I had my first two when I was on campus sans vehicle. For old time's sake, I parked next to the old apartment and walked on over, therefore avoiding a parking fee. Alas, extricating myself from Syracuse after the game was something I didn't have to do, either.)
Alas, you didn't come here to read about Syracuse, and the general populace at the Dome appeared to give Jim Baron and Canisius about the same amount of respect I have so far, probably not bothering to notice or care that the Golden Griffins were 6-1 (and 2-0 in the MAAC).
Billy Baron, who seems to be thriving in his (and his father's) new environment, drove the length of the floor and scored just 10 seconds in, giving a big fist pump on the way back. It's not every day Canisius gets to play in front of 19,000 people, I guess, but quickly Syracuse was up 9-2. However, while the Orange threatened to pull away as they have in every game this season (their last three Dome wins were by 36, 36, and 31 points, respectively, and they currently have the nation's longest home winning streak), they never could, and when Josiah Heath scored and was fouled (for a #yeoldesuperhoop), Canisius led 32-30 with 2:30 left in the half.
The fans, who came expecting to see the sacrificial lambs squirming and screaming for mercy on their way to slaughter, were a little bit taken aback, although I don't think there was too much panic, as Syracuse has had a habit of getting off to slow starts, even if this one extended a little longer than they were used to.
It would be Canisius' last lead. Syracuse scored the last four points of the first half and the first five of the second, and - although they would hit 12 #superhoops and never really get completely run over - Canisius never got within eight points of the Orange again. The fans got the best of both worlds, they got to applaud the spunk of the visiting gladiators and still see their heroes emerge with a comfortable victory.
As I saw with Ohio State, you can just see the difference between the teams in national title contention and those pretty far below the Red Line like Canisius. Carter-Williams had 14 more assists (which seems like a little touch of home-town scoring as Syracuse somehow had 23 helpers on 34 field goals, but I digress). Hustle and athleticism can take you only so far, and the Orange hit eight of 14 #superhoops and shot 55 percent from the field. The game is much easier to coach when your players can put the ball in the basket, and this was Jim Boeheim's 899th career victory at Syracuse.
Despite the seemingly lopsided loss (the final 24-point margin was more than a bit flattering), there were plenty of positives for Canisius, which had already eclipsed last year's win total, both overall and in the MAAC, in mid-December. Billy Baron looks like he could be an all-league candidate, the duo of Harold Washington and Alshwan Hymes (who was suspended for the first half for a violation of team rules) are scorers, and I haven't seen a team in the MAAC that can deal with their size down low (Canisius won the rebounding battle 37-34 in this game).
I can't sit here with a straight face and tell you I won't be rooting for Syracuse this season. It is my one and only alma mater, and walking around (and a little off) campus brought back some of the best memories of my life.
That doesn't mean, however, that I can't see the inequities of the system that produces the gap between Syracuse and Canisius athletically. In March of 2005, a bunch of alumnus got together on a Friday night to watch Syracuse - two years removed from a national championship - beat up on its first-round opponent.
After Syracuse was stunned on overtime in one of the great Red Line upsets in recent NCAA Tournament history, my phone rang. I looked at the area code and realized 802 meant it was coming from the great state of Vermont.
"Congratulations, Uncle Neil," I said. "If I wasn't a Syracuse alum, I'd be almost as happy as you are."
SYRACUSE 85, CANISIUS 61
CANISIUS 6-2 (2-0) -- H. Washington 3-10 2-2 9; B. Baron 6-15 1-3 15; J. Heath 1-3 0-0 3; I. Sosa 5-11 0-0 15; J. Heath 1-4 1-1 3; C. Manhertz 0-0 2-2 2; R. Groves 2-5 0-0 5; A. Hymes 2-7 0-0 6; F. Asprilla 0-1 2-2 2; T. Edwards 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 20-57 9-12 61.
SYRACUSE 9-0 (0-0) -- M. Carter-Williams 4-9 3-4 12; C. Fair 3-7 2-2 8; B. Triche 7-11 3-5 19; J. Southerland 9-14 0-0 21; R. Christmas 5-7 0-0 10; D. Coleman 3-5 1-5 7; B. Keita 1-3 0-2 2; J. Grant 1-3 0-0 3; T. Cooney 0-2 0-0 0; R. DeRemer 0-0 0-0 0; N. Hart 0-0 0-0 0; G. Hoffman 0-0 0-0 0; M. Lyde-Cajuste 0-0 0-0 0; A. Nassar 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 34-62 9-18 85.
Three-point goals: CANI 12-30 (H. Washington 1-6; I. Sosa 5-9; A. Hymes 2-4; R. Groves 1-3; B. Baron 2-5; J. Heath 1-2; T. Edwards 0-1), SYR 8-14 (B. Triche 2-3; J. Southerland 3-6; M. Carter-Williams 1-3; A. Nassar 1-1; J. Grant 1-1); Rebounds: CANI 33 (B. Baron 7), SYR 32 (C. Fair 6); Assists: CANI 11 (H. Washington 4), SYR 23 (M. Carter-Williams 14); Total Fouls -- CANI 15, SYR 15; Fouled Out: CANI-C. Manhertz; SYR-None.