Bad time for Forth’s antics
STORRS, Conn. – Craig Forth never gave up. After fouling out in Saturday’s Syracuse-Connecticut matchup, the senior center wanted any retribution he could get against the UConn student section.
Earlier in the game, when Terrence Roberts and Darryl Watkins fouled out, the students followed them to the SU bench with a ‘left, right, left, right’ chant, screaming ‘sit down!’ when they finally reached their seat.
So when Forth fouled out with 3:51 remaining in the second half, he walked to the bench, faked sitting, and smirked.
It was a small victory in Forth’s last collegiate regular season game, but it was the only smile on the Syracuse bench as the Huskies crushed the Orange, 88-70, at Gampel Pavilion on Saturday.
‘This is the first time any player has had fun with this,’ one UConn student remarked as the Huskie fans continued the ‘left, right’ chants. They mimicked Forth all the way to the end of the SU bench, where he remained standing for the rest of the game.
At a time when SU was losing by 20 on the court, there was a stark contrast on the SU bench. Orange head coach Jim Boeheim was enthralled in the game, embarrassed by his team’s play, while Forth toyed with the UConn fans.
As a senior, he should’ve kept his head in the game even if he fouled out. Syracuse should focus on the opposing team, not the opposing fans.
‘Fans don’t really make a difference,’ Forth said after the game. ‘Every gym is just like that. It’s difficult to lose any game.’
Going into the season-finale rematch with its conference rival, Syracuse could’ve gained momentum headed into the Big East tournament, but instead it fell apart, not resembling the team that won 24 games this season by any means.
Tied at 37 heading into halftime, the wheels fell off the Orange cart as SU shot just 28 percent in the second half. Stifled by UConn’s Charlie Villanueva-Josh Boone duo down low, Hakim Warrick struggled to score 25 points. The Wooden Award candidate managed 10 second-half points and relapsed at the free-throw line, missing six foul shots in the second half.
‘I missed a couple, then I started thinking too much,’ Warrick said. ‘A couple rattled out, then I really started thinking. We just gotta put this one behind us and move on to the tournament.’
In a game with 54 fouls called, the Orange proved once again that it can’t compete with big, physical teams. The Orange had similar second-half collapses against Pitt twice this season and once before to UConn on Feb. 7.
So looking forward to the postseason, is there any chance SU can handle Pitt or UConn in the Big East tournament after such a devastating loss?
Maybe. Gerry McNamara probably won’t shoot 4 for 16 (2 for 10 from the 3-point line) again – he’s simply too good – even when the Huskies pressure him like they did on Saturday. And don’t count on the referees to let tournament games turn into street fights like this one did – SU played the final four minutes with Warrick as its lone big man.
Still, there are some things SU definitely needs to address before taking the court on Thursday at Madison Square Garden. Outside of McNamara, SU shot 0 for 12 from beyond the arc, Warrick was 0-of-4.
Josh Pace played well against UConn, scoring 12 points, but there needs to be another scoring option that can hit a jump shot when McNamara struggles. And though Warrick can knock down 3s in practice at will, he is not ready to unleash them in a game.
As for Forth, if a senior can’t focus on a game for 40 minutes, the Orange is in bigger trouble than it realizes.
Forth said earlier in the week he wanted to start a school after his basketball days were over. UConn students may be nothing more than belligerent kids, but it wasn’t Forth’s place to teach them a lesson.
Timothy Gorman is an assistant sports editor at The Daily Orange, where his columns appear regularly. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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