Before jumping into the game, have to start with the atmosphere created last night at Fifth Third Arena. The Whiteout could only be considered a raging success and set an electric backdrop for Big Monday.
Turns out the Big Head Initiative was a huge success as well. I knew when I came out 45 minutes before the game and immediately spotted 10 big heads, that it would be an impressive showing. Bill Cosby, Fabio, Justin Jackson Mean Face and seemingly every member of the UC staff was represented, including two Skippys.
It was fun. It gave some personality to the crowd.
Although, one particular sign stuck out as I scanned the front row. There was a sign which read, "Who is @PaulDehner". Intrigued, I had to go investigate and found Brandon Trame.
Turns out, Brandon was the guy who brought the Nick Lachey big head last week which I was pretty critical of on here and Twitter. So, Brandon flipped the script on me. I give him credit, he wins this round, for sure. I was probably a little over the top critical and it was great he had fun with it.
As Jim Boeheim said after the game quoting Lou Carnesseca, "the crowd can make a lot of noise, but they can't score any points."
For Cashmere Wright, it did affect him.
"It brings energy to the game, it gets players into the game," he said. "We go out and play harder. When the crowd gets with us everything seems to get out and flow."
Let's talk about the game.
--- My postgame column on the learning experience of Monday night is posted here and Chris Gundrum wrote a piece on the continued strong play of Yancy Gates, who finished with 16 and 10 for a third-consecutive double-double.
--- A standard stomp of Mick Cronin after every loss is to preach about defense. As much as people will look at 53 points on Monday night, Cronin's defensive concerns were well-placed Monday.
Holding Syracuse to 60 points in and of itself wasn't a disaster. Yet, giving up five layups in the final 10 minutes was. It ended up costing them the game.
Boeheim, Cronin and the Bearcats players all called the two backdoor cuts for layups the biggest plays of the game. They answered big UC buckets where the lead could have been sliced to one possession.
"The West Virginia game we had the game won," Cronin said. "We gave up two backdoor layups in that game off preparation. It's inexcusable for our guys to do that. It's not like we're surprised. Our guys are prepared as you can possibly be. That I'm not happy about."
--- Cronin clearly wasn't happy after the game. He wasn't hiding it. His postgame pressers, even in defeat, typically last 10-15 minutes. It went on for 5:35 Monday night.
"I don't care if you are playing Syracuse or St. Ann's where I went to grade school, guys dribbling for layups they are going to make them."
--- The anger likely stems from how winnable this game actually was. According to ESPN Stats and Info in the story from Dana O'Neil, this was the first time this season a team won a game shooting 25 percent or worse from the 3-point line and 33 percent or worse from the free-throw line.
Plus, they just aren't the same without Fab Melo, as Mike DeCourcy points out.
The Cuse didn't play lights out. A game there for the taking slipped away.
The prescription for UC beating Syracuse was to get hot from 3-point range and let the crowd help carry them defensively. UC shot 4 of 20 from deep after starting 4 of 5.
For the game they shot 32 percent from deep. If they hit 40 percent, the complexity of the game changes dramatically. UC needed to play its best game of the season to win. They didn't.
--- Boeheim with some high praise for UC after the game:
"I thought they could have won 12 straight games going into tonight," he said. "They were very, very close to doing that. To play the way we played tonight was very big."
--- Monday was only the second game in Big East play for UC not decided by four points or less.
--- First thought after the game: That's why you really hated letting that win at West Virginia slip away.
--- Second thought after the game: With a win at Rutgers (no easy task), UC would be 6-3. Cronin stated at the beginning of conference play, the goal is always to win two out of three. They'd be on pace to do just that.
--- Mick took Cashmere Wright and Dion Dixon out for some key moments late in the game. He explained after:
"I was searching for anybody who could stay between their man and the basket," he said.
--- Paul Daugherty wrote a column for SI.com. The main focus is Syracuse, with some UC analysis sprinkled in.
--- SK played through injury and didn't appeared too hampered. He scored eight points, but grabbed nine rebounds. The biggest effect came in his reluctance to attack the basket -- of course, that was contagious against the Cuse zone). He took eight shots, five of them from beyond the arc.
--- Chad Brendel with a game recap.
--- Stat of the night: The Bearcats nine first-half turnovers equaled their high any game in conference play. They finished with 11 total.
--- Stat of the night, Part II: After going 15 consecutive games winning the turnover margin, UC has now lost it twice in a row. (9-8 @WVU and 11-8 vs SU)
--- Quote of the night: Boeheim talking about his defensive strategy of always using the matchup zone:
"My wife asked me, 'Why don't you play man-to-man?'" he said. "See, I even get it at home."