Syracuse junior forward C.J. Fair said he first began to follow college basketball about 10 years ago and remembers watching Carmelo Anthony, who also grew up in Baltimore; help lead the Orange to the NCAA title in 2003.
“I remember seeing him when a national championship. That team was unbelievable,” said Fair, sitting in his locker at the Verizon Center Saturday evening. He added Anthony helped raise the profile of prep rings in Baltimore.
Now Fair, wearing an East Regional title T-shirt and black Final 4 baseball hat, will have an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Charm City product Anthony, who played at Towson Catholic near Baltimore, with a trip to the national semifinals.
Playing about 40 miles south of his hometown, Fair scored 8 of his 13 points in the 2nd half as the Orange beat cold-shooting Golden Eagles 55-39 in the East Regional title game at the Verizon Center.
Syracuse Orange (30-9), with its suffocating 2-3 section defense, earned its first trip to the Final 4 since 2003 when Anthony led the team to the national title. Now Fair will make efforts to bring another title to Baltimore, which just celebrated an NFL crown by the Ravens.
Marquette made just 22.6 percent of its shots from the field and just 2 of 16 from long distance in the 2nd half.
Fair hit two 3 throws with 9:33 left to give his team a 41-28 lead and then came up a block on Vander Blue of Golden Eagles with 6:39 to go.
Seconds later Syracuse got a bounce back and Southerland (26 points) put down a thunderous dunk to give the Syracuse a 45-32 advantage.
Then Fair, with an orange headband high in the in air, dunked a missed shot to give Syracuse a 47-32 lead with 4:41 to go.
Southerland hit a 3-pointer to make it 50-36 with 2:20 and the orange-clad fans at the home of the Georgetown Hoyas started to celebrate as if they were in upstate N.Y. Football spreads
Golden Eagles (26-9) were led by Blue and reserve Gardner, who had 14 points.
But the Marquette Golden Eagles failed to come close, as they made just 3 of 24 shots from 3-point range with 14 turnovers.
Syracuse had just 6 turnovers and won easily although Marquette won the battle of the boards, 44-36.
Triche made a layup on a goaltending call to make it 28-21 with 14:24 left in the game.
Fair made a basket to give the Syracuse a 30-23 lead but Blue hit 2 free throws to make it 30-25 with 12:36 left. Fair replied by heading back to the baseline, hitting an one-hander from about 6 feet out to give Orange a 32-25 edge with 12:10 remaining.
A driving layup and free throw by Southerland made it 35-25 and Carter-Williams (12 points, 6 assists) scored on the next possession to give the Orange a 37-25 lead, its largest of the game at the time.
Fair was joined on the all-region team by Carter-Williams, the MVP, Southerland and Gardner and Blue of Marquette Golden Eagles.