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Carrier Dome fans dumbfounded by Orange's loss to Butler

While the NCAA Tournament's East Regional moves on in the Carrier Dome, the season is over for Syracuse University.

When the Orange's loss to Butler was announced just before the end of West Virginia's Sweet 16 victory over Washington on Thursday night, there was a sudden gasp from the people in attendance in the Carrier Dome. The sports page of the Syracuse Post-Standard read: "Inconsolable."

One Dome security member mumbled Friday, "I'm glad we only have one more day of this. I wanted Syracuse to win."

Instead of cheering on the Orange today, Central New York will watch No. 2 seed West Virginia play No. 1 Kentucky with the winner advancing to the Final Four.

Indeed, it was a crushing blow that ruined a potentially magical season at Syracuse. The way the Orange played last week during the first and second rounds in Buffalo, at least a chance at playing for the national championship seemed realistic.

When asked if he could put the season in perspective, senior guard Andy Rautins said, "I think maybe down the line we will. But losing never feels good, especially at this point in the season. For a team that had such high aspirations, I don't think we're going to be able to see the good side of it for a while."

Junior Wesley Johnson, who likely played his final game for Syracuse, said the team accomplished a lot and expectations were high.

"The games we won, winning the Big East outright, we got a lot to be happy about it," Johnson said. "But it's always not good to lose like this, though."

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New York/New Jersey metropolitan area teams are struggling for wins and one of the main reasons could be that their best talent is going elsewhere.

West Virginia has six players on its roster from New York or Jersey, including top three scorers Da'Sean Butler, Kevin Jones and Devin Ebanks. The Big East Freshman of the Year was Cincinnati's Lance Stephenson, who groomed his game on Coney Island.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said it's the New Yorkers' mental and physical toughness that set them apart.

"They are just hard-nosed kids," Calipari said. "They know if you want something you have to go after it. It's not going to be given to you, and that you have to work. They're not afraid. They've been in environments that prepare them."

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Butler came into the interview room at the Carrier Dome with his right hand heavily wrapped in ice but said his hand is fine and that he shot well in practice on Friday.

With nine minutes left in Thursday's win over Washington, Butler fell hard to the floor and landed on his right arm. He was on the court for several seconds before jumping up and continuing to play.

"My hand is good to go," Butler said. "I'm taking care of things, precautionary reasons. I'm taking care of things before it gets to a certain level where I can't do anything with it."

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Kentucky junior forward Patrick Patterson grew up in Huntington, W. Va., home of Marshall University, and went to Thundering Herd games as a youngster.

When it came to his recruitment, Patterson didn't seriously consider Marshall but former West Virginia coach John Beilein recruited him heavily and may have landed the prep All-American had he not taken the Michigan job.

"I talked to Coach Beilein a couple of times," Patterson said about the former Canisius College coach. "I went to the campus and met with coach Beilein, a couple of the players and saw the facilities. I liked it. It was home and all my friends were going there."

After Beilein left, Patterson eliminated the Mountaineers and was down to Kentucky and Florida before selecting the Wildcats. Still, coach Bob Huggins tried to make a last-minute pitch for Patterson when he replaced Beilein.

"Coach Huggins came in and picked up where [Beilein] left off in talking to me," Patterson said. "By that time, I had been interested in Kentucky."

e-mail: rmckissic@buffnews.com

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