first_imgPITTSBURGH – UNC Asheville head coach Eddie Biedenbach phrased it in a way some of the Syracuse players couldn’t disagree with.‘Syracuse is better than Asheville,’ he said. ‘Tonight, we were better than Syracuse. …These guys played their tails off for 40 minutes and played better than Syracuse. I have all the respect for Jim Boeheim, their team being 31-2. He’s a fantastic coach. They deserve all the recognitions they’ve got this year. (UNC Asheville) was the better team tonight.’Aside from Boeheim, everyone else on both sides agreed. Matt Dickey, J.P. Primm, C.J. Fair, Brandon Triche, the list goes on.UNC Asheville should have done the unthinkable Thursday in Pittsburgh. They should have gone into the record books as the first No. 16 seed ever to take down a No. 1. This Orange squad could play UNC Asheville 100 more times and win every single one of them. In fact, most of those games would likely be far more lopsided than the 72-65 final from Thursday.But in this one game, UNC Asheville deserved to make history.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAnd Syracuse knows it.‘I say 80 percent of the game they were a better team than us,’ Fair said. ‘They were executing. You could tell they had a great game plan for us coming into the game. And they were knocking down shots. It’s hard to beat a team when they’ve got that confidence, knocking down shots.’When asked if he thought the Bulldogs were the better squad after the game, Boeheim aptly pointed out that the scoreboard should give that answer.But his own players definitely felt otherwise.‘I definitely felt like they were definitely the better team out there,’ said SU’s leading scorer James Southerland. ‘We just picked it up. We had to make an adjustment without Fab and all, but they played their hearts out.’That they did.They played with emotion that an indifferent Syracuse lacked for almost the entire contest. And for much of the game, it was enough.The Bulldogs took a four-point lead into halftime that left SU walking to the locker room with their heads down as the upset-thirsty crowd rained down chants of ‘overrated.’UNC Asheville somehow managed 20 points in the paint despite not playing anyone over 6-foot-5 for more than a few seconds.But ultimately, the Bulldogs couldn’t overcome the Orange.And a blown call or two.‘It’s tough when things don’t go your way,’ Primm said. ‘In college basketball, sometimes you have to play everybody in the building, you know.’Everyone in the country knows.The referees must have been the only people in the arena that didn’t see the ball go straight through Triche’s hands and out of bounds with the Orange clinging to a three-point lead late in the second half. Triche even said he touched the ball, and his only explanation for the call was that maybe the refs held their whistle because he got bumped on the play.There was also the goaltend-that-never-was by Rakeem Christmas at the start of the second half that turned a potential three-point play into a single made free throw.‘We made some mistakes, and it cost us,’ Biedenbach said. ‘… But they made plenty of mistakes and some of them didn’t cost them.’To Syracuse’s credit, it once again found a way to survive. Even if the refs had made those calls, the Orange might still have pulled it off.But that doesn’t mean it deserved to win.SU jacked up 23 3s against a team it should have owned on the interior. The Orange hauled in just one more rebound than the Bulldogs in the entire game.UNC Asheville played with heart and soul that Syracuse didn’t match. That allowed them to make up for their lack of size.But it couldn’t make up for the calls.‘No one thought we were going to be in this game,’ Primm said. ‘We had the game. Like I said, sometimes you get the short end of the stick.’The Bulldogs absolutely did Thursday.Instead of going down in history, UNC Asheville will be the team that almost pulled off the unthinkable for a couple years. After that, everyone will forget this game ever happened.The Bulldogs were the better team and deserved to play Saturday.But in the end, it doesn’t matter. Just ask the Orange. Just ask James Southerland.‘It doesn’t mean anything because we’re advancing to the next round,’ Southerland said.Zach Brown is a staff writer at The Daily Orange, where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @zjbrown13. Published on March 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img