Sunday, March 21, 2010
Final: Syracuse 87, Gonzaga 65
By Dana O'Neil
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Some quick observations from a second-round game that looked a heckuva lot more like a 1-16 first-round game (somewhere Vermont is smiling for giving Syracuse a tougher game than the Zags).
Kentucky's dismantling of Wake Forest was impressive, but in my book, this was even more impressive. Playing with essentially five guys and a little bit of DaShonte Riley, Syracuse completely humiliated Gonzaga. Smoked 'em offensively, schooled 'em defensively. If anyone thought the injury to Arinze Onuaku took the Cuse out of the national championship derby, I'm guessing they're rethinking that now.
The fact that Wes Johnson is back to his old self is far more significant than the status of Onuaku's leg. Not to discredit the importance of Onuaku, but Johnson at his best means a lot more in the grand scheme of things for the Orange. And the way he played today -- 31 points on 11 of 16 shooting, 4 of 6 from the arc and 14 rebounds in 36 minutes -- should send out a flare to everyone else left in the bracket.
The Orange only go six deep without Onuaku but five of those six can dominate the game at any time. They practically took turns against Gonzaga -- Johnson to start, Brandon Triche midway through the first half, Andy Rautins to begin the second. Sprinkle in a little Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph and Rick Jackson and you realize just why this team is so hard to beat.
I'll be curious to see if Onuaku can play in Salt Lake City. That regional begins on Thursday and Onuaku hasn't practiced since injuring his leg against Georgetown more than a week ago. Do the Orange absolutely need him? Apparently not. Would it be good to have him when you push into the second weekend? Absolutely.
As for Gonzaga? Well the band was fun. Seriously, this is a team that can be fun to watch offensively but also is a team that was absolutely run out of the gym by Duke. Shouldn't be terribly surprising this happened. The Zags don't play enough defense which means when they can't shoot -- and they couldn't have scored with a ladder to the hoop against Syracuse -- they can't win.