V-RECAP | National Championship Game | April 7
(East No. 3) SYRACUSE 81, (West No. 2) KANSAS 78
Jim Boeheim finally gets the gold trophy in his third trip to the Final Four, baby!
The last time he was in New Orleans, Boeheim walked out in defeat after Derrick Coleman missed the potential clinching free throws and Keith Smart hit an acrobatic shot to win the 1987 national title for Indiana.
Poor foul shooting was the key this year as well, but this time it worked for Boeheim and Syracuse.
Kansas went a disastrous 12-for-30 from the free-throw line but still made a gallant run after falling behind by 18 points in the first half.
The Jayhawks had a great spurt to get within three points, but then Keith Langford picked up his fourth foul, Kirk Hinrich hurt his ankle and the team seemed to be exhausted.
Talk all you want about the 2-3 zone of Syracuse and the size of the Orangemen players, but the inability to execute the simple motion of shooting a free throw did Kansas in.
It all started for Syracuse with the other diaper dandy, Gerry McNamara, who drilled six 3-pointers in the first half. Mark it down as a little payback for both Steve Alford and Tony Delk hitting a championship-game record seven 3s against Syracuse (Alford in '87, Delk in '96 for Kentucky).
But it was a total team performance for the Orangemen. Fabulous freshman Carmelo Anthony became just the third freshman to win the Most Outstanding Player award at the Final Four, scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds with a sore back. On Saturday in the national semifinals vs. Texas, Anthony scored a career-high 33 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.
And don't forget 12 points from another frosh, Billy Edelin, as well as 11 from senior Kueth Duany. Everyone made big plays to help Boeheim lead his alma mater to its first national championship.
A lot was made of the youth of Syracuse, but credit all the games that high-school kids play these days for helping give these young kids the poise to pull it off. As McNamara said before the game, "We're not freshman anymore, man!"
And let's give a nod to the great Kansas careers of seniors Hinrich and big man Nick Collison, the Jayhawks' sensational inside-outside duo. They are tremendous players -- and I said all season that they were the best duo in the country this year. I will miss watching them play.
Collison and Hinrich epitomized what the term "student-athlete" is all about and in turn reminded us all what coach Roy Williams is all about -- always doing things with class.
The Orangemen were an amazing story this year, not even earning a ranking in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll until February. And yet tonight they reign supreme as the numero uno team in college basketball.
And what a tribute to Jim Boeheim, man! He has been criticized for not winning the big game, but with this championship he has quieted all those critics and established himself as a legitimate candidate for the Hall of Fame.
Let the celebration begin up in Orange country on the 'Cuse campus!