Bryant had itself a nice little extended weekend.
In just the program's sixth season, the Bulldogs earned their first NCAA Tournament win against Siena in the play-in round of The Big Barbeque and then proceeded to outplay second-seeded Syracuse -- in the Carrier Dome -- to earn a trip to the quarterfinals on the back of a clever 10-9 win against the Orange. In the span of five days, Bryant went from NCAA Tournament curiosity to page one, above-the-fold status. This is all a real thing that actually happened.
There will be plenty of time to decompress the entirety of what happened under the Dome's roof, but let's pick this up in the fourth quarter: Tied at seven with 10:32 remaining in regulation, Syracuse pulled square with Bryant for the first time since the 10:17 mark of the first quarter. (Bryant never held more than a two-goal lead.) A Tucker James tally -- he finished with six points on four goals and two assists -- gave the 'dogs an 8-7 lead with 7:52 left on the clock. The Syracuse defense broke down on the play, with Collins Gantz shaking his mark and dishing the bean to James on the crease for an easy finish. The teams would trade possessions until Gunnar Waldt made a man-work stop on Derek Maltz, turning away a quick stick opportunity on the crease. The Bulldogs corralled the loose ball and raced the other way, getting a James bucket only 26 seconds after Waldt straight-up stoned one of Syracuse's best finishers.
Syracuse would cut its deficit to one under a minute after James' goal, winning the ensuing faceoff and matriculating the ball to Kevin Rice. Rice -- using a screen -- was able to slip the bean past Waldt with 3:56 left in regulation. Kevin Massa won the proceeding faceoff following Rice's tally, allowing Bryant to use the possession to push their lead to 10-8 on a Shane Morrell binger -- in a 30-second posture -- 1:04 seconds after Rice gave the Orange life. Then Waldt -- who finished the day with a vital 13 saves -- happened.
Matt Harris -- after scooping a free ball on the faceoff following Morrell's score -- raced into Bryant's end, splitting defenders and getting into a square position to beat Waldt. Waldt, though, came up with a huge stop -- stops that the Bulldogs have asked Waldt to make all season -- to preserve Bryant's slim lead with 38 seconds left in the game. The Bulldogs cleared but turned the ball over when Harris dispossessed Colin Dunster, allowing Rice to sneak a ball past Waldt with nine seconds -- !!!!! -- standing between Bryant and a massive upset. Chris Daddio -- Syracuse's maligned faceoff specialist that held his own against Massa on the day -- won the draw (what is happening?!) and quickly got the ball to Dylan Donahue. Donahue, with two seconds left, had a great look at the cage from the right alley but Waldt pulled off a miraculous save while on his knees (this is real life!) to send the Bulldogs to Valhalla. (Donahue entered the game shooting 55.4 percent).
Bryant earned everything they got against the 11-time national champion. It was an incredible win in a difficult spot, one where the Bulldogs did not bow to a traditional alpha predator.
TRUNCATED ADVANCED BOX SCORE
|Possession Margin||Even (31)||Even (31)|
|Raw Offensive Efficiency||32.26||29.03|
|Raw Offensive Shooting Rate||37.04%||23.68%|
|Shots per Offensive Opportunity||0.87||1.23|
|Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities||51.61||41.94|
|Run-of-Play Groundballs per 100 Possessions||19.35||33.87|
|Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities||41.94||29.03|
|Team Save Percentage||59.09%||47.37%|