If you love father-son stories, you didn’t want this to end.
You wanted the son to shoot his 76-year-old basketball lifer father into the Elite 8.
You wanted more March Dadness.
And you didn’t have to be an accomplished coach like Kelvin Sampson to know that it wasn’t just Jim Boeheim and his 2-3 zone that would be standing in Houston’s way, it would be Buddy Boeheim shooting the lights out inside historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.
The college basketball world has awakened to the fact that Jim Boeheim is especially dangerous as a double-digit seed, and when Buddy Boeheim morphs into Buddy Buckets, he is that much more dangerous.
The father has won a national championship, but he has never won one with his son playing for him. Buddy Boeheim was 3¹/₂ the April 7, 2003 night when his father had Carmelo Anthony by his side and beat Kansas at the Superdome.
When you play for your father, the both of you are fair game for the social media trolls and talk radio naysayers, and so the best way — the only way — for Buddy Buckets to shut them up is to rain down terror from downtown Syracuse and get Jim Boeheim to his Eighth Elite Eight.
But this was the night it stopped raining.
And so Jim and Buddy Boeheim, the 62-46 losers, will have to watch Houston play Oregon State in the Midwest Region final for a berth in the Final Four.
Buddy’s eyes were watery when he faced the music. He spoke softly, a white towel draped around his neck at the end of a surreal season during which he had a bout with COVID-19.
“Toughest season of my life,” he said.
“Obviously this is a terrible feeling. It’s something that’s gonna take a while to get over.”
The Cougars, specifically Dejon Jarreau, were not going to let Buddy Boeheim (3-for-13, 1-for-9 behind the arc, 12 points) beat them.
Jim Boeheim: “He just stayed with him every place he went.”
Buddy Boeheim: “He’s a great defender. He just jammed me coming off screens, jammed handoffs, whatever it was. I got some looks I gotta make, and I put that on myself.”
Buddy Boeheim was only one man of A Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight (28 percent, 21.7 percent from the Carrier Dome), but he was the one man the Orange could not afford to not shoot straight.
When Jarreau cramped up and was forced to leave with 5:10 left, the Orange trailed by 11. But this kid is a warrior. Ask Rutgers about that. He returned with 4:34 left.
Buddy drilled his first and only 3 with 15:41 remaining. Buddy had missed all four of his first-half 3s and was 1-for-7 from the floor, and the Orange, shooting 25 percent and 1-for-10 from the Carrier Dome, trailed 30-20.
You need big shoulders when you are the star to carry the weight of great expectations, the burden of carrying your teammates and your school and your father-coach to the next game.
And Buddy Boeheim, who made himself into the player he is today, a player who will have a chance to play at the next level, embraced the mantle of leadership. He refused to buckle, refused to blink.
But the physically-superior Cougars made his life miserable, contested every shot, all but accompanied him to the restroom, and the Orange forwards could not help.
The magnitude of the moment seemed to shake the Orange, who fired up three early air balls. One of them belonged to Buddy Boeheim.
Coach Boeheim inserted 6-foot-11 sophomore Jesse Edwards into the teeth of that 2-3 zone in the first half, and it temporarily unnerved the Cougars, and sparked a 10-0 run, even with Buddy Boeheim resting on the bench.
Jarreau fouled Buddy B shooting a 3, and the three free throws tied the game at 20-20.
The Orange went the last seven minutes of the half without a field goal. And then Jarreau fed Brison Gresham for a monster dunk straight out of the Phi Slama Jama days for a 10-0 run of its own into intermission.
There would be no more March Dadness. Buddy will be back. Wait Til Next Year. “Definitely remember this season forever. … In a couple of weeks I’ll look back on it and be proud.”