New York, NY—The fourth and fifth college basketball doubleheaders were played at Madison Square Garden on the evening before and the afternoon after Thanksgiving. The Oklahoma State Cowboys (3-2) fell to the Stanford Cardinal (5-1) and the Virginia Tech Hokies (4-1) were defeated by the nationally fifth ranked Syracuse Orange (6-0) in the semi-finals on Wednesday night.
The consolation game was the first of two scheduled non-conference meetings between the Cowboys and the Hokies. They will face one another again on New Year’s Eve. Playing two non-conference games with the same team in one season is a rarity. It occurred most recently for Virginia Tech in 1992-93 and for Oklahoma State in 1993-94. Hokies coach Seth Greenberg said, ”It’s almost like a 13th league opponent.”
Both the consolation and championship games on Friday were very competitive with the outcomes not decided until the final seconds. The Cowboys scored the first eight points in the opening contest on Friday afternoon. With the score 12-7 in favor of OSU, the Hokies scored 14 unanswered points to go ahead by a score of 21-12 with 6:40 remaining in the first half. Neither team could take advantage during the remainder of the half as Virginia Tech still led by nine, 32-23
A lay-up by Eric Green opened the second half to give the Hokies the game’s only double digit differential in points. A 14-6 scoring run by the Cowboys cut the led to three, 40-37 with 12:10 left in the game. The Cowboys shot more accurately than Virginia Tech in the second half, but could not capture the lead. Virginia Tech was victorious, 59-57.
After the contest, Cowboys’ coach Travis Ford explained the reasons for his team’s defeat, “I thought in the first half, we gave up way too many points off turnovers (12)…It’s tough to win any game when you give up 21 offensive rebounds, very tough. 21 offensive rebounds to go with 30 free throws is tough to overcome.”
The championship contest was ugly, especially in the first half, but very competitive. It was the first time the two teams ever played. Despite Syracuse’s favored status, especially at MSG which is like a second home to the Orange, neither team led by more than eight points. Syracuse won the title by a score of 69-63.
Four points were the greatest advantage that either team could muster in the opening half. The score was tied twice and the lead changed hands nine times during the first 20 minutes. Each team committed double figures of turnovers, shot under 40 % from the floor, sunk only one three, and missed more free throws than it netted. Stanford was ahead by one point, 25-24, when the buzzer sounded to end the first half.
The play of both teams improved greatly during the second half. The percentage of shooting from the floor, from three point range and from the charity stripe was much higher in the final 20 minutes. As in the opening half, the score was twice tied and the lead changed hands on nine occasions. The size, athleticism and capability of the Orange allowed to turn an eight point Stanford lead with 6:47 remaining to a six point victory.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was victorious in his 862nd game, 2nd among active coaches and 5th all time. The veteran coach spoke of his team’s play after the contest ended, “We played 40 minutes of good defense and 35 minutes of horrendous offense. Without the pressure we wouldn’t have won. That [full court press] was the difference.”
The tournament MVP, Kris Joseph of Syracuse, modestly gave credit to his teammates for his award, “If I could cut it up [award] and share it with all the players, I would.
Until the NBA season begins on Christmas day, the focus of hoops fans will be on college basketball. The next college basketball doubleheader at MSG will take place on Sunday afternoon, December 4, The Big Apple Classic.