Syracuse advances in NCAA Tournament despite absence of Fab Melo

The SU Basketball team had been dealing with the national headline of losing Fab Melo over the last couple of days, but nothing in that scenerio would have compared to the headline of being knocked out of the NCAA tournament by the # 16 seed. The Orange managed to avoid being at the wrong end of history on Thursday night, pulling off a 72-65 win over a very fiesty UNC-Asheville team.

"We've been in situations before like this all season," said Kris Joseph after the game, "I think being part of those games early on in the season, in the Big East, prepped us for this game. We stayed poised and handled our business."

Syracuse was down by four points at halftime, having dealt with the Bulldogs high tempo offense and five three-pointers in that first frame. But after the seniors struggled for the third straight game early on, they came out in the second half ready to play, Kris Joseph finishing with 12 points, while Scoop Jardine dropped 11 points in the 2nd half alone, including shooting 4 for 4 from the free throw line."That was the difference in the ballgame," says Head Coach Jim Boeheim, "We need these two guys if we're going anywhere. They stepped it up big-time."

"It starts with us," says Jardine about the seniors, "We have to be aggressive - not only scoring, but make yourself available, assert yourself on the offensive end. That's what we done. We didn't shoot the ball too good from the field, but we was aggressive. That's where the action was, that's what we did today, and that's why I think we got the win."

Another big reason why the Orange got the win was James Southerland. The junior scored 15 points, 13 of those in the 2nd half, and perhaps more importantly 8 rebounds, helping to fill the void of their lost center Fab Melo. Southerland is picking up steam at the right time after suffering through a late season scoring slump.

"Every game is a new game and I never think of the past," says Southerland, "every other shot is going in for me"

The Orange were playing in frong of a very pro Bulldogs team, rooting against the # 1 seed, and you could hear it on some of the officials calls in the late stages. Scoop Jardine was awarded an extra free throw opportunity thanks to a called lane violation, while Brandon Triche collided with a UNC player with no foul call. The crowd voiced their disapproval in both cases.

"First of all, all the noise about the ball going out of bounds," recalled Boeheim, "I mean, Triche got pushed. That's why it went out of bounds. Maybe they missed the out of bounds, they missed the foul call. Those things equal out."

The Orange will now face Kansas State, who beat Southern Mississippi in the early game, as the games continue to get tougher. The 8th seed Wildcats are among the best rebounding teams in the country.

â??Just play our game," continued Southerland, "theyâ??ve watched us and weâ??ve watched a little bit of them. Iâ??m just ready to go out there and play.â??