Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Florida State Seminoles 72 at Syracuse Orange 82 (NCAA Basketball, ACC) - January 28, 2017

A couple of years ago, I attended the second weekend of March Madness at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. The trip was enjoyable, but the games lacked the energy that would accompany a Syracuse Orange home affair. Part of the reason behind this is the dome is only half filled for basketball, but mostly it is because there were two competing fan bases, so things never got overly loud. As well, with Syracuse not participating, there were no student fans that usually add so much to the atmosphere at a college hoops contest. So I really wanted to return see an ACC game here as I had heard great things about that experience.

With Syracuse about 4 hours away from NYC, it really isn’t worth the drive for just one game, so I decided to combine it with a trip to Rochester to visit the very impressive Eastman Museum, with my wife joining for the weekend. In the end, we decided to fly hoping to save a bit of time and hassle, which might sound strange, but driving out of New York on a Friday evening is not a lot of fun. In the end, we didn't save any time, but more on that later.

With the game at noon on Saturday, we left Rochester early. I dropped my wife off at a local mall, and made my way over to campus. University lots were charging $15, but I found free parking on Ashworth Place, a block north of Genesee Street. One side of Ashworth allows parking from 6 pm on odd days to 6 pm on even days, the other vice versa, so you will always be able to park here. If you don’t remember what day it is, just follow everybody else’s lead. A few steps away from where I left my vehicle, a lot was charging $20, so I felt pretty good about my parsimony, even with the chilly 15-minute walk to the dome.

I was granted a media credential in order to write the Stadium Journey review. This gave me a seat behind one of the baskets, not a bad view at all, as you can see above. The actual seat was just in front of the band, behind four rows of courtside seats in the photo below.

Rather than duplicate the review here, I will link to it once it is published in a few days. But I can say that the experience of seeing a Syracuse Orange game at the Carrier Dome is much better than a neutral tournament matchups I saw back in 2015. The fans are amazing and there were nearly 25,000 of them on hand for this one. I saw few visiting supporters (who wants to leave Florida for Syracuse in January?) and the crowd really made a difference. It surprised me that even with the dome half full, it was one of the loudest places I have been.

I will provide a few pictures to give you a sense of the atmosphere. History is big here, which you will notice immediately with the Ernie Davis statue out front, one of four that dots Plaza 44.

Davis' Heisman can be found in a display case in the concourse, while the 2003 basketball championship trophy gets a special spot all by itself.

There are a few other cases around the concourse, including one dedicated to the Syracuse Eight, and another with odd memorabilia like helmets and photos (below). Make sure to walk around the entire lower concourse to see everything.

The photo below shows all three seating levels. The orange seats are actually padded portable chairs; the large sections that are entirely orange in the lower bowl are the club. If you don't have a padded chair, you will be sitting on a bench.

A view from the upper deck which is really not that far away at all.

So if you have a chance to visit the Carrier Dome when the Orange are playing, take it, especially against an ACC rival. The crowd alone is worth it, and if you are lucky, you will get to see a game that keeps them on their feet from start to finish, like I did.

The Game

The 6th-ranked Florida State Seminoles were in town coming off a road loss to Georgia Tech that dropped them to 18-3, while the Orange, coached by Jim Boeheim (above) were suffering after their Final Four appearance at 12-9 and in the lower half of the ACC standings. But the visitors struggled in the first half, making just 10 of 32 shots (including 1-8 from downtown), while the Orange shot 50% to take a commanding 44-26 lead at the half.

As is often the case in basketball though, the losing team began to make their shots while the leaders started laying bricks. Bit by bit the Seminoles battled back, and when Dwayne Bacon hit a three with 9:12 to go, they were within 2 at 60-58. But the crowd did not go silent and it paid off with a great hustle play a few seconds later. After a Seminole turnover, the ball ended up in the hands of Tyus Battle in the right corner. Battle launched a three that bounced high off the iron and Tyler Lydon, unguarded in the left corner, raced in and one-hand-slammed home the rebound that had everyone on their feet and garnered Lydon the #10 play on that night’s SportsCenter. A couple of minutes later, Lydon had the ball underneath his basket after a missed Seminole shot and saw Battle streaking down the right side. But his pass went long and looked to go out of bounds behind the end line, but Battle scampered after it and backhanded a no-look pass to White, who drained a 3 to make it 69-62 Orange. Again the fans stood as Florida State called timeout. Two great plays that showed how hustle helps in hoops.

The Seminoles did get within two a couple of times down the stretch, but Syracuse did not break. Down 74-70 with a minute left, Florida State decided to start fouling, and the Orange made their free throws in an anticlimactic finish as they won 82-72. As the clock wound down, the cheerleaders and other staff started moving out of the way behind me. I looked over my shoulder and saw students preparing to storm the court (below), which they did as the final buzzer sounded.

I guess it has been a while since the Orange have beaten such a highly-ranked team, but the Seminoles are definitely overrated and not worth a court storm. But hey, everyone was having fun and nobody got hurt, so all was good in the end. The photo below is of the court covered by students.

This was a lot of fun and I hope to get back here for football or lacrosse.


Flying back out of Rochester, we were delayed about 90 minutes by Delta’s system outage. They actually deplaned us briefly before the computers decided to start working again. It was a minor inconvenience, but to listen to a couple of other passengers, it was like we had spent three weeks in prison. One young lady on the phone promised to “never fly Delta again” while another proclaimed it a “disaster”, apparently unaware of the true meaning of the word when associated with aviation. Certainly Delta needs to figure out a way to prevent system-wide outages (this was their second in the past six months) but given the problems facing other travelers over the weekend, our issues were insignificant. Perspective and empathy are traits seldom found in people these days, which is one of the reasons America seems to be embarking on a path towards tyranny.

Next Up

I’m heading to Milwaukee for an AHL game and a couple of college hoops battles this weekend. Unfortunately, Green Bay did not make the Super Bowl, so things won’t be crazy in Wisconsin, but check back for regular recaps anyway.



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