Cutting down the nets with Syracuse men’s basketball

Cutting down the nets with Syracuse men’s basketball

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ CHICAGO — Mike Hopkins stood at the foul line — the same spot where Tyler Lydon blocked Gonzaga’s Josh Perkins on Friday, the same spot where Lydon sunk two free throws to seal a win over Virginia on Sunday, the same spot that Malachi Richardson blew by Cavalier after Cavalier on his way to the rim and the Final Four — and barked out commands.“Walk-ons, did we get all the walk-ons? … Where’s Malachi? … Dajuan, Dajuan get on up there!” Hopkins yelled over the crowd noise, the blaring music, the unending chatter by the Syracuse players whose Final Four hats were tilted sideways and worlds were turned upside down.His goal: Make sure everyone, from the end-of-the-bench walk-ons to Jim Boeheim himself, got to cut down some of the net.After 10th-seeded Syracuse (23-13, 9-9 Atlantic Coast) raced from behind to beat top-seeded Virginia (29-8, 13-5) 68-62 at the United Center on Sunday, chaos flooded the court. More than a hundred people ran on at once. Players squeezed into Final Four T-shirts and Final Four hats and held up newspapers with Final Four stripped across the front. The stage was set up; the stage was crowded by the entire SU team. The trophy was presented; the trophy was held up by the entire SU team.It was a moment worth holding onto and taking something from. Anything, however big or small. And that’s where Hopkins came in.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Mike and Trevor, can somebody get Mike and Trevor? … Adrian (Autry) where’s your family, get a picture with your family … Malachi? I still can’t find Malachi,” Hopkins stood on his tippy toes, craned his neck and then sighed. And then smiled. It wasn’t an easy undertaking, corralling every player and coach amid utter March madness, but things could have been much worse after the Orange fell behind by 16 in the second half.Around 20 minutes after 7 p.m. central time, the first of the Syracuse walk-ons toed the first rung of the ladder, tightly gripped a pair of scissors and climbed toward the net. Each player then, the line seeming to build toward Richardson and Michael Gbinije, snipped a small piece off the net and stuck it under their black hats. A handful of immediate reactions appear below.Walk-on guard Mike Sutton, laughing: “My piece is too small man, think I could sneak in for one more? Whatever, this is it. This is really it.”Starting center Dajuan Coleman: “I still can’t believe it at all. I just can’t believe this, any of it.”Starting shooting guard Trevor Cooney while tightly hugging assistant coach Gerry McNamara and holding his piece in front of McNamara’s face: “Look what we just did man. Look what what we just did!”Director of operations Kip Wellman: “Where’s the trophy? We need to find the trophy, guys.”Hopkins, still: “Where’s Malachi? Malachi?”Finally Richardson, the freshman who scored 21 second-half points to both spark and complete the most improbable of comebacks, stepped inside the 3-point arc and walked toward the ladder. As he slowly ascended up, a large cheer rose from the throngs of SU fans who’d stuck around. The noise crescendoed, and crescendoed, until he raised a small piece of nylon in the air to incite a stadium-rattling roar.When Richardson stepped down, Hopkins was waiting for him.“That a boy Mali, that a boy,” Hopkins, gripping his player in a bear hug, said close to Richardson’s ear. “That a boy.”With the net now hanging on by a single thread, one final search broke out. It wasn’t just Hopkins this time, but every Syracuse player turning toward the court to locate Boeheim. He wasn’t too hard to find, standing near the foul line before ambling toward the rim.“Woah, woah be careful coach,” Coleman yelled as Boeheim crept up the ladder. “Damn, look at Coach!”At the top, Boeheim reached out the scissors and snipped the net off the bottom of the rim — finally and forever putting it in the Orange’s grasp. Then he held the net in the air and waived it around while the crowd showered him with inaudible screams. It was his moment, their moment, and then he backpedaled toward the floor.Early last week, Syracuse flew to Chicago with Gonzaga on their minds and a slim shot at advancing to the Final Four. Five days later, it leaves with bits and pieces of a basketball net and so much more. Comments Published on March 27, 2016 at 11:02 pm Contact Jesse: jcdoug01@syr.edu | @dougherty_jesselast_img

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