ATLANTA -- It’s a moment, Syracuse guard Brandon Triche said, that might haunt him: looking for teammate James Southerland with 19.2 seconds left in the national semifinals of the NCAA tournament, finding him covered, opting to drive to the basket for a potentially game-tying layup instead ...
Only to be called for an offensive foul.
"That’s a moment you dream about -- those final seconds, the ball in your hands, trying to make the best play for your team," he said after Syracuse lost to Michigan 61-56 on Saturday. " ... We just needed another bucket."
That pretty much summed up Syracuse’s night.
For all the pregame talk of the Orange’s ferocious, suffocating, octopus-like 2-3 zone defense -- and whether Michigan could slice through and shoot over it -- it was Syracuse’s offense that failed it in the end.
Although forward C.J. Fair scored a game-high 22 points on 9-for-20 shooting, teammates Southerland (2-for-9) and Michael Carter-Williams (1-for-6), usually double-digit scorers, combined for seven points and made only 3 of their 15 shots.
"They started out strong, and we never really got anything going," Southerland said.
Syracuse shot 41.8 percent for the game -- including 3-for-14 on 3-pointers.
"I think they’re a good defensive team," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said of the Wolverines. "We have shot the ball well from 3 this year. We’re shooting about 20 percent from 3, in our nine losses. It hasn’t been something that we’ve been really good on. We try not to take a lot of 3s. But we had good looks. I mean, they were all good looks."
Southerland, who didn’t score his first field goal until the final two minutes of the game (on a dunk that cut Michigan’s lead to four), had a very good look with 41 seconds left, when he buried a 3 to cut a once-11-point deficit to 57-56.
"I probably should have made a better decision," he said. "Probably should have pulled up ... for a jump shot instead of actually taking it all the way down there, because I did see him."
Although who’s to say, in this game, that a jumper would have gone in for Syracuse, either?
"It was tough because offensively, we never could get anything going," Triche said. "We couldn’t get multiple made shots in a row. We’d make one, and we probably didn’t make another shot for two minutes or something.
"We didn’t have much momentum offensively. Defensively, we started to pick it up, chip away, and that’s what we did -- we chipped away all the way to the last second of the game."
After the charge call, Jon Horford hit one of two free throws to push the Wolverines up by three. But with nine seconds left -- and with a chance to tie it -- Syracuse reserve Trevor Cooney took and missed a bad 2-point shot that ultimately resulted in a dunk for Morgan and Michigan on the other end.
In a game that saw Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone hold the Wolverines to 33.3 percent shooting in the second half, it was a frustrating way to finish the game. And the season.
And the dream of winning a national title.
"Final Four, down two points, the opportunity to tie the game or take the lead -- but get a charge," said Triche, a senior. "That’s what I’ll probably remember the most."