Published on March 23, 2013 at 6:55 pm Contact Trevor: firstname.lastname@example.org | @TrevorHass Facebook Twitter Google+ Kayla Alexander walked off the court for the final time as Syracuse’s all-time leading scorer, her eyes gazing downward and her body stiff.She walked away from the game she had just dominated – per norm – but that was the last place Alexander wanted to go.It was over. Her storied four-year career had come to a close. And much earlier than she expected or desired.No. 7-seed Syracuse fell to No. 10-seed Creighton 61-56 at the Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday afternoon. The loss crudely – and, in its eyes prematurely – bumped the Orange out of a tournament it wanted to leave a dent in, marking the final game for Alexander, Elashier Hall and Carmen Tyson-Thomas. Alexander finished with 23 points and eight rebounds, but Creighton’s surprising edge on the boards and timely 3-point shooting crushed the Orange’s dreams.“Honestly, right now I’m kind of in shock,” Alexander told reporters after the game. “This wasn’t the way we thought, or planned, or imagined this would end.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIn the locker room prior to tip-off, SU head coach Quentin Hillsman warned his team of its eventual destiny.Creighton came into the game tied for first in the nation with 9.3 3-pointers per game and Hillsman knew the Bluejays would be far from an easy out.“All right guys, they are not scared of you,” Hillsman said. “They think they are supposed to win this game. Let’s go.”That’s exactly what happened. Creighton wasn’t scared. Far from it.On their very first possession, the Bluejays took four shots, two of them 3s. The first minute set the tone for the rest of the game. Creighton would shoot 3s repeatedly and rebound relentlessly.The Orange averaged 44 rebounds per game during the season while the Bluejays snagged just 35.3 per contest. Rebounding should have been easy for SU. But on Saturday, nearly the exact opposite stats emerged as the Bluejays outrebounded Syracuse, 43-35.“They did a very good job of getting offensive rebounds and really spreading the floor out,” Hillsman said. “They outrebounded us. And that’s our strength.”In the first half, Mckenzie Fujan single-handedly kept the Bluejays in the game. She notched her team’s first 11 points and drilled five 3-pointers in the first half, the fifth of which gave Creighton its first lead, 21-20, at the 2:32 mark.Fujan, who finished with a career-high 24 points, pumped her fist as she backpedaled downcourt. The sharpshooter scored 17 of her team’s 24 points in the first half, nailing 6-of-7 shots while her teammates went an incredibly inefficient 2-for-23 from the field.Hillsman was right. With Fujan sizzling the way she was and the Bluejays grabbing rebounds the way they weren’t supposed to, Creighton wasn’t going away easily.In the second half, Creighton’s other shooters came alive and provided a punch for the Bluejays. Fujan didn’t have to do it all anymore.Creighton’s leading scorer, Marissa Janning, hit a 3-pointer that bounced off the front rim, back rim and fell at the 17:09 mark, giving her team a 31-26 advantage – its largest lead to that point.Fujan and Janning each canned another 3 later in the half, extending the Bluejays’ lead to 10 with just 8:39 to go. Syracuse’s window was starting to close. Its chances of coming back were fading dimmer and dimmer.But with three minutes remaining, the Orange switched to man-to-man defense and started forcing turnovers and getting out in transition.“It really wasn’t our defense,” Hillsman said. “I know that’s what’s gonna be said, ‘It’s the zone, it’s the zone.’ I mean, they were 11-for-36 (from 3-point range).”Syracuse embarked on a 7-0, two-minute, emotionally charged run capped by an inside jumper from Alexander – her final points as a member of the Orange – with 2:39 to go. After all the failed closeouts, lack of rebounding and missed shots, SU was only down three.The teams traded points in the next few minutes, making the score 59-56 Creighton with under 20 seconds remaining.Syracuse had one final chance to salvage its season and prevent the inevitable bitter taste that would linger for months if it were to lose.Rachel Coffey passed the ball to Hall with five seconds to go. Hall chucked up a shot with three seconds left. It was wide right. The ball ricocheted off the rim and into Sarah Nelson’s hands.“When it got down to those final minutes I felt like we did what we were supposed to do,” Tyson-Thomas said. “It just wasn’t in our favor.”Syracuse’s season was over. Alexander, Hall and Tyson-Thomas’ four-year stint was history. They never got the NCAA tournament win they coveted for so long.Said Alexander: “We had such high expectations for ourselves and this wasn’t how we expected it to finish.” Comments
Big opportunities don’t come around too often.Three weeks ago, the men’s basketball team, fresh off its first appearance in the AP Top 25 since 2008, headed to Oregon for weekend road contests against the Ducks and Beavers with a chance to solidify or even improve upon a robust No. 21 ranking.Instead, the Trojans fell flat, losing to both teams and dropping out of the rankings as quickly as they entered them.“We worked so hard to be a really good basketball team and to get the recognition that we deserve,” redshirt junior guard Katin Reinhardt said to the Los Angeles Daily News last month. “We saw that ranking and then we lost it.”Now, after sweeping a three-game homestand with strong wins over Washington State, Washington and UCLA, the Men of Troy find themselves back in the rankings and in a similar position as they were in mid-January.Ranked 23rd in the nation in both the AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches Poll, the Trojans once again will hit the road for a couple of games over the weekend, this time against Arizona State and No. 17 Arizona.Adding to the parallelism, the quality of the opponents is alike.Arizona State is a lot like Oregon State — a team that, on paper, the Trojans should beat. Arizona is comparable to Oregon as the more established ranked team against whom a road loss would be understandable, but the Trojans should be able to hang with.USC has already beaten both the Sun Devils and Wildcats at home on Jan. 7 and 9, a weekend capped off by the classic four-overtime win over then seventh-ranked Arizona that turned a lot of heads around college basketball.All they’re looking for this weekend is a repeat formula, except on the road. Here lies another massive opportunity not only for head coach Andy Enfield and the Men of Troy in their quest to become not just relevant but also to remain in the conversation as legitimate Pac-12 contenders.Because let’s be honest: nobody expected the Trojans to even sniff the rankings this season, much less be points behind perennial powerhouse Kentucky this deep into the campaign. The Trojans are even one spot ahead of Texas, which was one Buddy Hield spectacular buzzer-beater away from upsetting No. 3 Oklahoma on Monday. If USC were to play the Sooners today, the result would probably not be very pretty.But the thing about an up-and-coming team is that nobody — not even themselves — knows their true potential, and that should be very scary for any of the NCAA’s top dogs should the Trojans make it to March Madness.Speaking of which, the Trojans are picked to enter the NCAA Tournament as high as a No. 4 seed in the Midwest bracket in USA Today’s latest bracketology predictions updated on Thursday, while Duke and Arizona are both projected to be sixth seeds — a development that would not have even been plausible prior to the season.First, though, the Men of Troy must take care of business in their remaining eight conference games. Enfield has continuously stressed that his team should stay in the moment.“Now we’re ranked again, and we’re on the road again, so we will see if we have learned anything from last time,” Enfield said, according to The Register Guard. “You can easily lose on the road in this conference whether you’re ranked or not, whether you’re overconfident or not because the road is so hard in this league.”Multiple appearances in the rankings are yet another indication that the Trojans are moving rapidly in the right direction. This weekend presents a chance for the Men of Troy to take it a step further and stay in the Top 25 for consecutive weeks, stay ahead of Arizona and move closer to overtaking Oregon atop the Pac-12 and keep building their reputation as an up-and-coming program everybody wants to see come March.Opportunity is knocking for the Trojans, and they better grasp it before it’s in their rear view mirror.Eric He is a freshman majoring in print and digital journalism. He is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Grinding Gears,” runs Fridays.
The Ghana Football Association insists that the Nations Cup qualifier against Congo remains priority number one as criticism grows that they are concentrating too much on the international friendly against England.Ghana are due to face the Congolese in a Nations Cup qualifier with a big bearing on the country’s prospects of qualifying for the 2012 Nations Cup in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.But much of the talk in the build-up to the game has been overshadowed by the prestigious friendly against the English, prompting a stinging editorial from the state-owned Graphic Sports about how too much attention is being focused on that game.GFA vice-president Fred Pappoe disagrees. “For the GFA, priority number one, two and three is the Congo game and we have made that very clear from day one. If the media chooses to focus a lot on the England game that cannot be out fault,” he said.“The game in Congo is a competitive qualifier and the one in England a friendly regardless of the pedigree and reputation of our opponents and we have to out that within the proper context.”Source: Kickoff