ATLANTA C. J. Fair proved Saturday night he is one of the top players in the country.
But even his yeoman effort, scoring 22 points and grabbing six rebounds, wasnt enough as his Syracuse Orange fell to Michigan 61-56 in the national semifinals at the Georgia Dome.
Fair was spectacular from start to finish, scoring inside and out and keeping his club in the game. He finished 9-for-20 from the floor in a spectacular 37 minutes.
But the junior from Baltimore said hed trade it all for a victory.
Its hard to believe right now the season is over, Fair said in a solemn SU locker room. We gave them a heck of a battle, but we just got behind too far. But I still thought we had enough to pull it out.
Fair took advantage of a size disparity with a couple of different Michigan defenders to score nine points in the opening 7 ½ minutes as SU jumped out to a 14-9 lead.
I felt like I could get to the basket pretty easy and the shots were going in, Fair said. They put two or three different guys on me, but I was bigger than all of them.
Fair, who led SU in scoring this season, didnt score the rest of the opening half as the Wolverines built an 11-point halftime edge.
C.J. was our entire offense the first half, said SU coach Jim Boeheim. Hers improved his offensive game so much this season, he can take advantage of those kinds of mismatches.
Fair started the second half strong as well, scoring eight points over 10 minutes as SU rallied to get within four points.
But after another jumper, he missed a couple of wide-open shots when SU was mounting one final comeback.
Those were shots I was making all game, he said. Maybe I was a little bit tired, but they still felt good.
Fairs strong performance this season has generated some interest from the NBA. He said he hadnt really thought about leaving school a year early, but Ive got to talk to my family before I make any decision.
Boeheim said if Fair improves as much as he did this season, especially offensively, hed be a first-round draft pick next year.
BEILEIN TOPs BOEHEIM
Michigan coach John Beilein had lost to Boeheim the first nine times they met as head coaches.
It happened twice while he was at Richmond, six times as West Virginia head man and once at Michigan two years ago. Beilein said he wondered if hed ever beat the Hall of Famer.
To me, Jim is one of the most underrated coaches weve ever had, Beilein said. He gets his kids to play like he wants, hes very good at adjusting on the fly and hes just so smart. I wish I had one-tenth the basketball knowledge that he has.
ORANGE COLORS DISPLAYED
The Empire State Building in New York City displayed the Syracuse colors as well as those of the other three semifinal teams on Saturday night.
Today, the Louisville and Michigan colors will only be displayed.
Former Indian River boys basketball coach Denny Seitz has a major connection to the Final Four.
He coached Beilein at Newfane High School, south of Buffalo. Beilein later coached at Newfane before embarking on a 30-year college coaching career with his first stop at Erie Community College.
Seitz coached at Indian River after retiring from teaching at Williamsville North High School. He was the head man for the Warriors for nine seasons.