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March 16, 2012

 

Shaky start

Top-ranked Orange avoid upset, negative history

By JIM O’CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer

PITTSBURGH — North Carolina-Asheville had a chance for history. NCAA tournament history.
With just over six minutes to play, the Bulldogs were tied with Syracuse. They were trying to become the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1. Their zone defense was working. Their height disadvantage wasn’t a factor. They had a sellout crowd solidly behind them.
It didn’t happen.
Syracuse held off the Bulldogs for a 72-65 victory Thursday night in the second round of the East Regional.
The fans were livid over two calls made by the officials in the final 1:20 that cost Asheville the chance at history.
The Bulldogs were stoic in their locker room after the game, saying all the right things but letting everybody know how they felt.
“It’s tough when things don’t go your way,” said J.P. Primm, who led the Bulldogs with 18 points and was involved in the first of the two controversial calls. “In college basketball, sometimes you have to play everybody in the building, you know. But I feel like that at that point in time the crowd definitely got behind us. Because, you know, everyone loves to see a 16 beat a 1. It didn’t happen tonight.”
There was no talk of moral victories, not from a team that talked Wednesday of pulling off the upset.
“You know, we’re not satisfied. We came in the game to win,” Primm said. “Like I said, I personally felt like the better team didn’t win tonight. That’s my opinion.”
Asheville’s Quinard Jackson was asked if the Bulldogs exposed Syracuse.
“You could say that but I kind of get the sense that every 1 seed looks over the 16 seed and they should pay more attention to 16 seeds because we weren’t angry we were a 16 seed but we just felt like what we did the whole year we should have been higher than 16 seed and everything else,” he said. “I just feel like we came out and we played our game and we were successful in the first half and the majority of the second half.”
The two calls had the sellout crowd of 18,927 at Consol Energy Center — except for those wearing orange — booing throughout the final minute but it didn’t matter.
Syracuse made it 109-0 for No. 1 seeds against 16s since the NCAA went to a field of 64 in 1985.
“I don’t think luck had anything to do with this game today,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said, “and I think the better team won.”
The Bulldogs (24-10) had a shot at the historic win.
“We gave it everything we had. We battled the best that we could,” Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach said. “These guys are great. They deserved a better fate than they had today.”
Syracuse, which won the national championship in 2003, had already made negative history in the tournament, becoming the first No. 2 seed to lose to a 15 when it fell 73-69 to Richmond in 1991.

 

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