When Keith Smart went up over Howard Triche with 4 seconds left, you knew the ball was going through the net. It was his 16th and 17th points of the second half and during that time he was the best college player in the world.
Sherman Douglas and Triche put the clamps on Steve Alford after the First-team All-American guard shot Cuse's eyes out in the first 29 minutes of the game — hitting 7-10 threes. Triche and Douglas basically played a sticky fingaz box-and-one on Alford so he wouldn' t get the ball. Smart's athleticism, especially when shooting over the defense, was special. If you remember this was a time where Jim Boehiem became a fan favorite because everyone just wanted to see one of his teams cut down the National Final nets and this was probably his finest coaching job considering Cuse's "Big Three" seniors – Rafael Addison, Wendell Alexis and Pearl Washington graduated. Expectations were low for a young Syracuse squad, which turned out to be loaded with future NBA ballers like junior center Rony Seikly and five-deadly-venom freshman Derrick Coleman. These band of Big East Hoya Destroyers turned the Carrier Dome into the Twilight Zone by leading Syracuse to a 15-0 record off ths rip that season en route to winning the Big East regular season title.
But a lot of events transpired in the closing minutes of the game including a failure by Coleman (his wiry 6-10 frame standing at the line with his shirt hanging a few inches above the bottom of his shorts) to ice the game by nailing down his freethrows in the clutch. Poor free throw shooting was an Achilles Heel for Syracuse all season and in the end it helped set up Smart's "Heartbreak Hotel" corner jumper.