Somber Boeheim apologizes after Orange edge Gators

December 2, 2011 - 11:26 PM
Florida Syracuse Basketball

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim yells instructions to James Southerland during the first half against Florida in an NCAA college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., Friday, Dec. 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — A contrite Jim Boeheim apologized again Friday night after another big victory.

The beleaguered Syracuse basketball coach said he had talked to some people in the community and wanted to make three points clear after the No. 4 Orange defeated No. 10 Florida, 72-68.

"I believe I misspoke very badly in my response to the allegations that have been made. I shouldn't have questioned what the accusers expressed or their motives. I am really sorry that I did that, and I regret any harm that I caused," he said.

"It was insensitive for the individuals involved and especially to the overall issue of child abuse."

He also said it was important that he get involved in terms of raising awareness.

"They need to get the message out," he said. "I'm going to do everything I can to do that, whether I'm coaching or not coaching."

Some sex abuse victims' advocates have said Boeheim should resign or be fired after Boeheim's disparaging comments regarding the accusers in defense of his longtime friend.

This was the second game since the firing of longtime associate head coach Bernie Fine, who has been accused by three men — including two former Syracuse ballboys — of molesting them as minors.

Fine, who was fired Sunday, has denied the allegations.

On the bench Friday, as Syracuse remained unbeaten, Boeheim maintained a stoic facade amid the intense federal investigation into his program. Behind the postgame microphone, though, was a different story.

Just as he was in Tuesday's home win over Eastern Michigan, Boeheim was greeted by a nice ovation when he was introduced to a crowd of 24,459. It was the largest on-campus attendance in the nation so far this season, and it included former Syracuse star Carmelo Anthony and former Orange assistant Rob Murphy, in his first year at EMU, in front-row seats.

Syracuse (8-0) breezed to its first seven wins with an average margin of victory of 26 points, but the Gators (5-2), whose only previous loss was by seven at No. 2 Ohio State, figured to provide a stiff challenge and they did in a game that seemed like a midseason encounter in the Big East.

But, once again, the game was secondary on the first Friday of December.

"It's been crazy," said Matt Roe, a Syracuse star from the late 1980s who does color on radio broadcasts. "Nonstop for 14 days. What am I going to say? I don't know anything. (Boeheim) is a good man."

Judging by the reaction of the crowd and the jammed student section — two signs were held aloft often that read: "In Boeheim we trust" and "In Jim we trust" — Boeheim continues to enjoy wide support.

And his players certainly responded against the Gators.

Brandon Triche had 20 points and Scoop Jardine finished with 16 and seven assists for the Orange. Kenny Boynton led Florida with 22 points and Erving Walker had 17.

Neither team led by more than six points in a first half that was tied six times.

Florida, which entered the game shooting 42.9 percent from beyond the arc and was averaging 12 3-pointers a game, went 3 of 14 from long range in the period — all by Erving Walker — while the Orange struggled even more, hitting just 1 of 10.

Syracuse still managed to forge ahead at the break, 31-27, behind seven points each from Kris Joseph, Fab Melo and Triche.

After the Orange built a 39-30 lead early in the second, Boynton led the Gators back with three 3s, the last putting Florida back on top 49-46 with 9:19 to go. Triche tied it for the fourth time in the period 11 seconds later with his first 3 of the game.

Jardine fed Joseph for a one-handed slam to break the tie and Jardine's steal and layup had the Orange up 54-49 with 6:20 to go and the crowd shaking the Carrier Dome.

The roar reached another crescendo when Jardine hit a runner in the lane as the shot clock neared zero, Joseph fed C.J. Fair for a baseline jumper, and Jardine hit a 3 from the left wing in a span of 2:19.

That gave Syracuse a 61-53 lead with 3:52 left and the Gators couldn't rally back.