NCAA Men's Lacrosse Semis in Philadelphia
1. Duke's 15-14 win over Cornell wasn't a "nip and tuck" affair. Cornell took a 5-2 lead, then Duke ended up 14-7, then Cornell rallied furiously before losing. With a few minutes to go, it looked like Cornell might tie it and the game would end up in overtime, but whoever Duke's face-off man was seemingly did a great job in the clutch.
2. Cornell's Rob Pannell proved why he is one of the best player's in the nation.
3. Duke's attack did a good job of pushing Cornell's defense closer to the goal, thereby creating easier shots for the Blue Devils. At the end of the day, Duke forced the action more than Cornell did, and that was the difference.
4. Duke's sophomore goalie, Kyle Turri, who looks a bit like a red-headed version of Landry from Friday Night Lights, outplayed Cornell's senior A.J. Fiore.
5. Bill Tierney's Denver squad won the first half, got off to a great start, and looked very disciplined. I don't know who played goalie for the Pioneers in the first half, but he was by far the best goalie on the field today. The Denver goalie who played in the second half did okay, but the goalie who played in the first half, in hockey parlance, "stood on his head."
6. That said, while Denver showed great discipline in quarters 2 through 4, they made way too many unforced errors in the first quarter, giving the ball up about 5 times. Had they not done so and converted two of those possessions into goals, I believe that they would have gotten a bigger lead than the 5-2 one they had at half time and would have sufficiently demoralized Syracuse and beaten them.
7. The Syracuse team travels well. Syracuse lacrosse nation is vast.
8. JoJo Morasco of Syracuse, along with Pannell, was one of the two best players on the field today. Both he and Pannell play lacrosse the way Chris Paul hoops. They are good feeders, but they also can bury you with their shots. Morasco was the difference maker for Syracuse, willing them to win in the second half. Even the great Pannell could not do that for Cornell.
9. While the Duke-Cornell was a penalty-laden, physical game, the Denver-Syracuse game was not. the first penalty was called with a few minutes to go, which was fine. It was on Denver, and Syracuse scored on a power play. That said, the refs horribly blew a full body check on a Denver player with the game tied -- they should have called a penalty on Syracuse but did not. Still, to me, Denver's excessive unforced errors (passes over teammates heads, for example) in the first quarter ended up undoing the Pioneers in the long run.
10. Great venue at the Linc in Philadelphia. Went to the Cornell tailgate, visited with a friend whose son is on the Big Red team, at Chickie's and Pete's crab fries there, headed inside, bought commemorative t-shirts for the kids, watched two great games, and then ran into some friends who are Syracuse fans after the game. It's a very collegial environment, but, yes, not a sellout at the Linc and not even close. perhaps there were 40,000 people there, but capacity is about 60,000.
11. Hard to predict what will happen on Monday. On the one hand, when Duke got hot, they looked unstoppable and they have many weapons -- including a very exciting freshman named Chase Matheis). That said, it's hard to bet against the tradition of Syracuse and the star, Morasco. Also, 'cuse is known, at least this year, for its defense. So, my prediction is that Syracuse will win a close one, 10-9.
If you live close by, try to get down there. You'll have a great time.