Friday, July 16, 2010

Flashback Friday: Carmelo Anthony + Syracuse = National Champions

Posted by CoHoops DeAnte Mitchell

Carmelo Anthony came out of high school, tabbed as the No. 1 overall small forward in the nation. 

When he signed his letter of intent to play with Syracuse, you knew that Anthony and Hakim Warrick would make this team a title contender.

In his first game as a freshman, Anthony scored 27 points and grabbed 11 boards in a loss to Memphis. This was one of the best freshmen debuts in the history of the NCAA.

After the loss to Memphis, the Orangemen followed up with ten straight wins before losing to Pittsburgh by 13.

However, after that, Syracuse didn't lose too many more. They had a great revenge game against Pitt where they rallied back to win by two. 

It not only kept them undefeated at the Carrier Dome, but it also kept Pitt from being the No. 1 overall team in the nation.

Jeremy McNeil was the unsung hero that day after hitting clutch free-throws and a lay-up to win the game. 

When the season ended, Syracuse was (23-4) overall and (13-3) in the Big East. 

In the regular season, UConn's Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon posed a problem for the Orange. Everything was the same in the Big East tournament, as the Huskies blew Syracuse out of the waters again.

However, once the NCAA tournament started, Syracuse was doing the blowing out. Before being tested by Auburn, Syracuse beat their first two opponents by ten points or more.

But once they got to Auburn that was the scare of the tournament. Anthony or Warrick didn't play particularly well but they did come out with the win.

With less than 30 seconds, Syracuse was up by three until Kueth Duany pushed the lead out to five. With two seconds left, Auburn's Nathan Watson hit a three to pull within one, but the game was already over.

Syracuse steamrolled past Oklahoma, before Anthony's managed a historic performance against Texas. 

In their first Final Four match-up, Syracuse faced Texas. In the first half, Anthony led Syracuse to a three-point lead with 16-points to his name.

But coming out the second, Anthony was on fire. He hit the first lay-up of the second half for the Orange. Soon after, he grabbed an offensive rebound and scored again.

He went on to score 17-points in the second half while leading Syracuse to their first ever National Championship. In that game, Anthony set a record for the most points scored by a freshman in the Final Four with 33 points. 

Now that Syracuse advanced they had the right to play the Kansas Jayhawks for the National title.

This by-far, was the most difficult challenge they faced throughout the tournament.

The Jayhawks early on looked like they were going to fold against Carmelo Anthony and Syracuse.

At the half, Anthony had 13-points and the Orange has a 53-42 lead.

However, the second half Kansas came out with a different mindset. The Jayhawks would get as close as three before Syracuse would answer to conserve the lead.

There was a point where Kansas didn't score for almost four minutes and Syracuse pushed the lead out to ten. But after a burst of scoring, the Jayhawks got the game to three with under a minute left.

After Michael Lee hit a lay-up, Nick Collison committed a foul on Anthony. Remember, the game was under a minute and Syracuse desperately needed this free-throw.

However, Anthony missed it and the Jayhawks had a chance to knot things up. Aaron Miles tried a three-point attempt first but it went off rim. 

Jeff Graves grabbed the rebound, missed the put-back, grabbed another board, and finally was fouled by Warrick with about 40 seconds left in the game.

Graves hit the first one at the line; however, after the timeout by Jim Boehim, he missed the second. Anthony grabbed the rebound and got the ball up court.

With less than 30 seconds, Collison fouled Kueth Duany; he would miss the first, but then made the second. 

Syracuse had many chances to put this game away. Warrick missed two late game free-throws that would have put the game away, but did come up with the biggest play of the game.

With just under five-seconds, the Jayhawks had the ball and was thinking three. With Anthony harassing Hinrich, he passed it off to Michael Lee for the three.

Lee was 1-for-5 from three but Syracuse still wanted a hand in his face. Lee pulled up what he thought was a decent shot before having it blocked by the lengthy Warrick to seal the victory.

Anthony as a true-freshman delivered the city of Syracuse, New York their first ever National Championship. 

He finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven assist. He was named the 'Most Outstanding Player' in the tournament, and on top of that, his Coach Jim Boehim claimed he was the best college basketball player in the game.

Anthony led Syracuse in almost every statistical category you could think of. 

After cutting down the nets as the leading scorer and rebounder, his college career was over and a new era was beginning.

Since leaving Syracuse, Anthony has been in the NBA playoffs all seven-years of his NBA career. He has eclipsed 10,000 points and is the go-to-guy for the Denver Nuggets.

Anthony will forever be remembered for what he achieved as a freshman at Syracuse. He is the only player to win a National Championship as a true freshman in the past 20-years.

(Flashback Friday is a segment CoHoops does every week. If you missed last weeks segment of Flashback Friday, click here to read. To review the series click here)


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