Several shining moments
By Eric Neel
Page 2 columnist

Years from now, people in upstate New York and Orange fans all across the land will remember Monday night in minute details and vivid images.

Like old golfers recounting the length of the grass and the angle of the sun on a hole-in-one, they'll break it down, chapter and verse.

They'll flick back their heads to soak up the warm glow of memory and walk you through every delicious twist and turn of Syracuse's big night in the Big Easy.

An image Orangemen fans won't soon forget.
"Boeheim wore a blue shirt that night," they'll say. "And young Carmelo, of course, had his braids and headband working." And then from head-to-toe, start-to-finish, they'll tell you all of it.

For the rest of us, for those of us whose thoughts of the game will turn fuzzy with age and indifference by next week or next month, I offer a brief, anecdotal list of memories from the '03 title game:

  • McNamara's eye: He hit six threes in the first half. The one I'll remember came with about seven minutes gone. On the heels of a Keith Langford slash and drive through the match-up to make it 20-14, young Gerry brought the ball up the floor and let loose from somewhere just outside of Baton Rouge. Net. And just like that, "experience" -- the word folks couldn't stop saying before this thing started, the same-as-it-ever-was idea that seems so near and dear to everyone's hearts these days -- was gurgling and writhing on the floor with a big, nasty freshman stake through its traditional heart.
  • Melo's smile: Brash can be thuggish. Brash can be a front. Brash can be ugly, with a cold, acidic edge to it. You can look at brash and want to slap it down. But brash can be sweet, too. Infectious. Charming as all get out. Every rise-up, easy-like-Sunday-morning J and every grounded, don't-you-worry-bout-a-thing-mama shot in traffic from this kid -- in this game, in the semi, in practice, in the backyard at home -- has that brash smile about it. And when you look at it, you want to embrace it.
  • The get-backs: On Saturday, KU came down like water, their transition offense was a mighty stream. Last night, it was Cuse who flowed just and righteous, pedaling back and setting up like they were always already there.
  • The throws: 12-for-30? Damn. 12-for-30? Clang. Ouch. Boing. Thud. That's bad, gentlemen of KU. That's basketball-god-why-hast-thou-forsaken-us bad. I'm not sure how you get over a thing like that. Here's a start, though. Hair of the dog, you know what I'm saying? Go to the gym tomorrow, early, and toe the line and shoot 'em till you make 20 straight. Think about a routine. Free your mind and your throws will follow. Me, I always use two dribbles and a deep breath, but you go with whatever suits you. It's going to hurt at first, but I think you have to do it, don't you?
  • Kirk Hinrich, Roy Williams
    Another title shot slips away for the Jayhawks.

  • Josh Pace. Kueth Duany: Two names I didn't figure to be writing when the night began. Pace was a force around the bucket. Duany did his brother proud from downtown. Josh Pace and Kueth Duany. Just wanted to be sure they were part of the official record, that's all.
  • Rony Seikaly's noggin: Kudos to Boeheim for having Seikaly at the game. Kudos for not forgetting '87, and for knowing Syracuse is an ongoing thing with a history. Kudos for knowing that guys like Seikaly and Sherm Douglas and D.C. were not just rooting for, but were breathing life into, guys like Melo, Duany, Pace and Warrick Monday night.
  • Kirk Hinrich's ankle sprain and Carmelo's sore back: I'm with Eddie Fisher on this. (I'm with Carrie Fisher on everything else, but on this, I'm with Eddie.): "When your luck is battin' zero/Get your chin up off the floor/Mister you can be a hero/You can open any door/There's nothin to it but to do it/You gotta have heart/Miles and miles and miles of heart." We make too much of pluck. We over-dramatize desire. But Kirk, Nick and Graves, they kept coming last night. And so did Anthony and all the Orange. The second half of the game was pretty ugmo at times, but there was plenty of good-looking heart on display.
  • Keith Langford's fifth, with 5:36 to go: Which wasn't a foul. Which was a Rumblin', bumblin', stumblin' thing from Edelin, but it weren't no foul. No sir. No how. Now, I'm not saying the game goes the other way if Keith's in there until the end, I'm just saying I would like to have seen how it went, because both Saturday and Monday night Keith showed a bloodhound smell for the ball and the bucket, and the greyhound legs to get there.
  • Hakim Warrick's arm at the last: Is outstretched a long enough word for what he did? Can we add a Super to it, and maybe an Expialidocious too? At the top of the tourney Final heap are shots by MJ, Keith Smart, Lo Charles and Scottie Thurman. Put this shot -- the one that came flying back with just seconds left -- right up there.
  • Syracuse
    "OK, great, we won -- now get off me!"

  • Roy's poetry: Williams didn't speak from the script all night. In the pre-game, when he might have played it close to the vest, he was straight-up with Bonnie Bernstein about the fact that he could hardly bare to make eye contact with Collison and Hinrich for fear of breaking up. During the Jayhawks' comeback run in the second half, he wasn't measured or tactical; he was hungry, desperate and loud, shouting, "Come on! Come on! Come on!" with fists clenched. And when it was over, when you could forgive him for going somewhere quiet to be with his players, he was out on the floor in the midst of the Orange crush, congratulating Boeheim's guys, one-by-one. And then the postgame, where he delivered the best enough-already I can remember: "I could give a s--- about North Carolina right now. I've got 13 kids in that locker room that I love." Kids on the playground tomorrow, they'll be talking about two things from this weekend: Carmelo's skills and Roy's words.
  • And finally, the shot of Boeheim watching Hinrich's last shot sail long: It was a wiggly, arm-waving, hip-swinging thing. Part Karate Kid practicing on the pylon, part Mama Cass in a caftan with a tambourine. You feel as good as he must have felt then and you ought to be able to look goofy, in front of God, Billy Packer and everybody.
  • I'll remember other things too: Kansas' interior passing; Nick Collison's two hands on a rebound, on 21 of them, actually; an alley-oop to Collison from Hinrich; everybody moving in quicksand in the middle of the second half, one team worn out from a comeback and the other spent by the putting down of a comeback; Syracuse, thankfully, not "managing" the clock; Anthony's body control, at every moment except the one when Graves took his legs out on a last-second in-bound play; and KU players, who looked so smooth and confident against Marquette, looking harried by the zone much of the night.

    For everything else, I'll just ask one of the faithful to start with Jimmy's shirt and take it from there.

    Eric Neel is a regular columnist for Page 2. His Fan's Notes diary on the baseball season will appear each week on Page 2.



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