Clark’s overtime heroics send Syracuse to 3-2 win over VCU, 3rd round of NCAA tournament
With three flicks of his right cleat, Louis Clark extended the best season in Syracuse school history by at least one more game.
On Sunday night, Clark had an assist and two highlight-reel goals – including the game-winner in the 108th minute in double overtime – to complete a comeback against No. 19 Virginia Commonwealth (12-4-5) in the second round of the NCAA tournament at Sports Backers Stadium in Richmond, Va.
The Orange dug itself out of an early two-goal deficit to earn a 3-2 victory over the Rams and advance. With the win, Syracuse will resume its storybook 2012 campaign with a third round matchup against a familiar foe – No. 3-seed Georgetown (18-3-1) – on Sunday, Nov. 25.
The winner of that game faces No. 11-seed Tulsa or San Diego in the quarterfinals.
But head coach Ian McIntyre knows that scenario would have been much more difficult without the standout performance Clark delivered on Sunday night.
“To go down on the road behind two, it would’ve been easy for the guys to fold it in and say ‘this team had our number tonight,’” McIntyre said after the win. “Players like Louis kept working and that was the difference in this game.”
After the first 14 minutes of play, Syracuse had every reason to think its tournament run was over. VCU scored first on a breathtaking 40-yard free kick taken by Juan Monge Solano in the eighth minute. Five minutes later, the Rams doubled their lead off a penalty kick goal rewarded for a handball committed in the Syracuse box.
"To go down on the road behind two, it would’ve been easy for the guys to fold it in and say ‘this team had our number tonight. Players like Louis kept working and that was the difference in this game.”
Ian McIntyre , SU head coach
But nothing – not even an early yellow card in the first half – could stop Clark from keying an SU comeback against VCU.
That comeback started with a blast from Clark in the 21st minute. The senior received a pass from Lars Muller, faked a defender right, and earned just enough space to shoot left. The ball slammed off goalkeeper Andrew Wells and skipped into the right corner to slice VCU’s lead to one.
Less than nine minutes later, Clark drove 10 yards in front of the VCU goal on the right before reversing his momentum and passing left. His ball found the foot of a charging Stefanos Stamoulacatos who tied the game at two goals apiece before halftime.
“It took the wind out of our sails early,” Clark said. “There were times where you stand and think that this is it, but we snapped out of those thoughts and rolled our sleeves up. And then we got those two first half goals and start believing we can come back in this game.”
That comeback could’ve easily ended with a shot to Clark’s leg late in the back-and-forth second period. But aided by McIntyre, Clark rose to his feet again for the remainder of regulation and a ten-minute extra time period.
When that first ten-minute period elapsed, VCU had SU on the defensive. Clark said he promised his teammates to make sure the second period wasn’t the same way.
In the 107th minute, he delivered on that promise. And as his second score in the 108th minute landed in the far right corner of the VCU goal, he turned to face his charging teammates and savor SU’s second-ever NCAA tournament victory.
“My just mind went blank,” Clark said. “That was one of the best games we’ve ever been a part of… trailing by two goals early and winning makes it feel that much better.”
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