8:00 PM ET, March 12, 2005
Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
NEW YORK (AP) -- There was no wild celebrating. The nets are still on the rims at Madison Square Garden.
Syracuse won its first Big East tournament championship since 1992 on Saturday night with a 68-59 victory over West Virginia. The postgame celebration wasn't far off what you would see after a quality regular-season win.
"This was a great tournament win for us, especially for our seniors, to be able to win this thing was a tremendous accomplishment," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "I'm real happy for them."
Then why no celebration that has become a ritual in leagues big and small during "Championship Week?"
"I don't know," he said. "Maybe it's unfortunate but my mind-set has probably changed and maybe it shouldn't but it has. In my mind-set the only thing that matters is next week."
Hakim Warrick had 20 points and 13 rebounds -- his third double-double in three games -- for the Orange (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today; No. 16 AP), who should be seeded from third to fifth in the NCAA Tournament that starts next week.
Warrick, the conference player of the year, was selected the tournament MVP. The only other player to have three double-doubles in one tournament was Craig Smith of Boston College last year.
The last time Warrick and his teammates cut down the nets was in New Orleans after the 2003 NCAA championship game.
"That's something you want to save for the Final Four, a national championship," he said. "This is a really big things, a big win, but we definitely want to be cutting down the nets in St. Louis."
But the tournament title was something Warrick wanted once he decided to return for his senior season.
"When I came back I thought of this," he said. "Big East player of the year, Big East tournament champion and MVP. I couldn't end my career any better, couldn't have scripted it any better."
The third-seeded Orange (27-6) won their fourth Big East tournament title in their 12th championship game appearance.
The loss ended a history-making run for West Virginia (21-10), the first No. 8 seed to ever reach the championship game. No team had ever won four games to take the title and the Mountaineers fell one game short in winning their first conference championship since winning the Atlantic 10 in 1984.
West Virginia had never gotten past the quarterfinal round before this season. They Mountaineers got past the quarterfinals this time by beating top-seeded Boston College.
"I've been fortunate enough to have similar times in my life but not four times on this stage," West Virginia coach John Beilein said. "But these kids are going to remember this forever."
Syracuse again used its 2-3 zone defense and Warrick's inside presence to take a big lead. The Orange dominated second-seeded Connecticut in the semifinals that way but just like that game they also let a big lead slip away.
"Our defense both nights was outstanding," Boeheim said. "I just thought defensively we were really good and offensively we did the things we had to."
Syracuse led Connecticut by 21 points with 12:47 to play and wound up winning 67-63. The Orange opened the second half with a 10-2 run to take a 51-33 lead over the Mountaineers with 16:12 left.
But West Virginia finally started to hit 3-pointers -- the Mountaineers were 35-for-74 in the first three games -- and the lead shrunk to 55-50 with 8:20 to play.
Josh Pace tipped in a miss by Warrick with 4:57 left to make it 59-50 -- the first Syracuse points not scored by Warrick in 12 minutes -- and West Virginia didn't get closer than eight points the rest of the way.
Gerry McNamara added 16 points and Pace had 13 for the Orange, whose other titles came in 1981 and 1988.
Syracuse entered the game second in the conference in field goal percentage defense at 39.1 percent and the Orange held West Virginia to 35.8-percent shooting, including 9-for-29 from 3-point range.
"Their zone is very, very hard to get shots against," Gansey said. "On the perimeter you have guys 6-9 and 7-foot and it's kind of tough to drive in there. Even when you get an open shot, you have a guy running at you with a hand in your face. That was our problem today, we just couldn't hit a shot."
The Orange, who won the only other meeting between the teams this season, finished with a 41-23 rebound advantage, a statistic West Virginia was next-to-last in in the 12-team conference.
"We just didn't get anything off the backboard with them," Beilein said. "Our kids gave every bit of effort that they could but we were going to gave one of those games."
The title was Boeheim's fourth, two behind Connecticut's Jim Calhoun and Georgetown's John Thompson.
"You just want to come out of New York playing well," Boeheim said. "I think the most significant thing coming out of here is that we were able to rebound better than we had and that our defense has really picked up."
Sounds like a coach whose teams left the nets hanging on the rim.
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||19-53 (.358)||24-49 (.490)|
|3P Made-Attempted||9-29 (.310)||4-12 (.333)|
|FT Made-Attempted||12-15 (.800)||16-22 (.727)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||15 (0/0)||13 (0/0)|