HOUSTON — It was one thought to the next for Mike Hopkins; everything that entered his head, exited his mouth, too. Explaining the postseason run for him was easy because it lacked a filter, but difficult because it accompanied emotion. His eyes were still red as he sat alone in the corner of the locker room. Only minutes had passed since Syracuse’s magical Final Four run had ended.First he lamented the loss to Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, remembering all the games that didn’t go Syracuse’s way. Then it was the “shot of adrenaline” for SU when it did make the NCAA Tournament. The defense started getting “on steroids.” The specific matchups with Gonzaga, the late “epic” comebacks.The explanation as to how Syracuse got here was jumbled and unorganized. But for Hopkins, so too was the moment he was presently in.“Those are emotional moments,” Hopkins said, a little smile creeping through as he held back more tears. ”All the coaches played and we all remember those emotions going through us. So we can appreciate a little more than the guy that hasn’t. Syracuse is a special place. You have the kids that give their heart and soul. You feel it just as much as they do.”This is a season that will forever be remembered for a two-week stretch that negated four months of inconsistency and one month of suspension. Four wins, with each building on an unexpected and fantastic storyline.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBut on the biggest stage, in front of a full 75,505-person NRG Stadium. In front of a student section full of those that sat for 32 hours on a bus to get there. In front of Vice President Joe Biden and a national television audience watching to see them play, Syracuse faltered in its season-ending loss. A magic-ending, 83-66, loss. The end of a run that will forever be a part of No. 10 seed Syracuse (23-14, 9-9 Atlantic Coast) history.“Losing hurts,” said Malachi Richardson, a towel fully covering his sulking head. “I don’t like to lose at all. This loss hurts.”No. 1 seed North Carolina (33-6, 14-4) couldn’t get a 3 to go in the first half, but that really didn’t matter. The Tar Heels collected eight offensive rebounds and it led to 10 second-chance points. Once they started to attack the interior, Syracuse started to get into foul trouble, and UNC started connecting on its shots. Michael Gbinije, Richardson and Tyler Lydon all picked up their second foul in the span of 66 seconds — with the freshman forward palming his hands on his head in disbelief after the call.Gbinije couldn’t get anything going on offense all night, failing to find an offensive rhythm. He struggled to pass in transition and missed all five of his 3-point shots, and 13 of the 18 he took overall. When Jim Boeheim called a timeout with 16:54 to play, Gbinije walked with the ball in his hands all the way toward the Syracuse bench, and just dropped it to the hardwood when he got there. The Tar Heels had just scored four fast break points of turnovers, the latter two on Gbinije’s careless drive into the teeth of UNC’s defense. Published on April 2, 2016 at 11:05 pm Contact Sam: firstname.lastname@example.org | @SamBlum3 Logan Reidsma | Senior Staff Photographer“I can only judge the effort,” Gbinije said. “Not really the outcome.”Syracuse’s season-saving, game-winning run against Virginia started the same way that SU’s run against the Tar Heels did. A deep 3 from Cooney and then a steal and dunk using the full-court press. Richardson got the basket for an and-one, leaving his emotional head coach clapping vigorously on the sideline. Then Richardson made a 3 from the top of the key. A 10-0 run to slice a 17-point deficit to seven.But Syracuse finished off that run against Virginia. It smothered the Cavaliers and took a six-point lead before laying off the gas. Syracuse’s run on Saturday started and ended with that 10-0 spurt. On the next possession down, Marcus Paige hit the first 3 of UNC’s 13 tries on the night. He’d hit two more before it was all over.“We almost had it,” Dajuan Coleman said. “But he just couldn’t get the magic stops that we usually get. The better team won today.”Cooney squinted up at the scoreboard with two minutes and 27 seconds left to play — at that point it was clear that was all the time left in his college career. He was catching his breath, his chest pumping in and out. His arms at his hips.Syracuse had pushed past each team it played this NCAA Tournament with a powerful second half. A 26-5 run against Dayton. A 21-2 run against Middle Tennessee. A 15-3 run against Gonzaga. Then another 21-2 run vs. Virginia. Syracuse had gassed each team that it played. It had thrown the last punch.But there Cooney stood, exhausted and out of breath. Syracuse’s season on the inevitable brink of closure.This time, Syracuse was the one that was gassed. It had taken the final blow.“I give my team a tremendous amount of credit for being able to do what they’ve done.” Boeheim said. “… I’m more proud of this team than any team I’ve ever coached.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+
Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos meet in California in the 50th playing of the fixture.The Broncos finished the regular season as American Football Confernce (AFC) champions with a 12-4 record.Their opponents’ path to being crowned champions of the National Football Conference (NFC) was particularly impressive – the Panthers ended the regular season with a 15-1 record.