"Carolina was too big and too strong for us. We had to have an almost perfect game." Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim's post game comments to TBS's Craig Sager.
They were flawed. They were fallible. It wasn't almost perfect. Early in the game, tied at 18, one of the Orange stepped to the free throw line. Shooting two. He missed them both. The Tar Heels really never looked back.
In a game where Syracuse had to shoot well, they didn't. Breaks didn't come their way. They had to defend their own basket, but second and third looks for North Carolina were routine. Turnovers came in bunches. The most common sound at the charity stripe for 'Cuse players was a sickening clang.
An improbable run came to an end. Syracuse's men's basketball team wasn't expected to make the tournament, let alone the Final Four. Along the way, they beat excellent schools, demonstrating heart and determination.
Hell, given the turmoil over the course of the season they were lucky to have more wins than losses. I'm still not sure what the NCAA sanctions, suspensions and forfeits were all about. Coach Boeheim wasn't even allowed to be around the team for nearly two months. Yet, this gritty team refused to let the naysayers, the doubters and reality set in until nearly midnight on a Houston evening.
And then... Sideline reporter Craig Sager is battling a particularly nasty form of leukemia. Boeheim told him "I'm proud of you." Sager was a fighter, something everyone should aspire to, an example to follow. And then he complimented Sager's tie, with it's orange highlights.
The players gave a proud, fierce though ultimately vain effort on the court. Their coach demonstrated amazing class afterward.
We are, proudly, SU.