BUFFALO, N.Y. – Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim sat at a table in the interview room and painted a bleak picture for injured senior forward Arinze Onuaku.
“He has not practiced,” Boeheim said matter-of-factly. “I never play somebody that hasn’t practiced.”
Onuaku strained his quadriceps in Syracuse’s Big East Conference tournament loss to Georgetown. He sat out the Orange’s 79-56 win over Vermont on Friday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Gonzaga isn’t convinced Onuaku will miss today’s contest to see who moves on the Sweet 16. GU players are preparing as if Onuaku will play.
“No,” center Robert Sacre said, when asked if he’d be surprised to see the 6-foot-9, 261-pound Onuaku on the court. “It’s his last year so I wouldn’t blame him if he came out and tried to give it his all.”
Seated nearby, senior guard Matt Bouldin nodded his head in agreement.
Onuaku is an effective scorer as well as a cornerstone in the middle of Syracuse’s zone defense. He’s averaging 10.5 points and 5.1 rebounds. Beyond that, he’s the school’s career leader in field-goal percentage (64.8) and he ranked 11th in blocked shots (148).
“Losing ‘AO’ is a big hurt to our team,” sophomore guard Scoop Jardine said. “I think Rick (Jackson) and DaShonte (Riley) did a great job playing in there together (Friday). DaShonte did a lot of great things, using his body to get a lot of blocks and some rebounds. Rick has been a force for us all year.”
The Orange are 55-13 when Onuaku scores in double figures. He’s averaged 10 or more points each of the last three seasons.
Catch and release
Boeheim and GU counterpart Mark Few are good friends with several things in common.
Both have raised millions of dollars for cancer research with their respective Coaches vs. Cancer events. Both have stayed put and been highly successful at their schools. Boeheim is in his 48th year (34th as head coach) at Syracuse and had only one job interview during that time. Few has been at Gonzaga since 1990 and he’s in his 11th year as head coach.
“I only did it because somebody just said we’re coming to see you,” Boeheim said of the interview. “I said, ‘Fine, I don’t want anybody to know about it.’ I’m not going out of my house. I never really thought about leaving.”
Boeheim and Few spent several minutes in a hallway visiting between their time slots in the interview room.
“We do one thing together – fish,” Boeheim said. “He just kills me. In the (golf) handicap world in fishing, I’m about a 22 and he’s about a plus 4. I got no hope of catching him, but he can go fishing out his back door.”
Goodson ready to go
Bulldogs sophomore point guard Demetri Goodson said his left shoulder is “still kind of tender,” but he plans on playing. Goodson came out of Friday’s game briefly to have his shoulder examined by trainer Jen Nyland.
“It’s the top part of the bone,” said Goodson, pointing to the sore spot. “It was the first play of the game. I was chasing a dude off a screen and I got hit by three screens in the same spot. The last one killed me. It’s been hurting since then.”
Goodson had nine points, five rebounds and two assists in 34 minutes Friday.
Handing it to his team
Few has been known to do hand-stands in the locker room after big wins. Friday’s 67-60 victory over Florida State in the first round of the NCAA tournament qualified.
“That’s one of his go-to (moves), I guess you could say, after a big win,” junior guard Steven Gray said. “And like he said, ‘Anytime you get a win in the NCAA tournament, it’s a big deal.’ He came in the locker room, sore back and all, and busted out a handstand.”