Syracuse did not shoot particularly well, but shot well enough. They were out rebounded for the game 35-27. But they did everything they needed to do to win the game. They played very active in the zone forcing the Hoyas into 16 turnovers and gave them few good looks at the basket. They protected the ball well on offense with only 9 turnovers (and only one ‘Scoop what the heck are you thinking’ moment). They had five blocked shots, though it seemed far more like 15. Hands up everywhere, no where for the Hoyas to shoot near the basket. And great transition into the fastbreak from the defense.
Raise your hand if you thought that James Southerland and Fab Melo would be on the court with less than 3 minutes to go, the team clinging to a three point lead, and there were no foul problems or injuries on the team?
Jim Boeheim had told Mike Waters the other day that he hoped to get a lot extra practice time for the freshmen during the abundance of free time the team had the next two weeks.
I was surprised that he decided he would use this game to do it. And it paid off. Southerland was the offensive spark in the first half, finishing the game with 9 points. And he displayed some hustle on his defense with a couple of steals, a block and three rebounds. That’s the way to earn some additional playing time. He ended up playing 21 minutes in this game.
Melo did not see much playing time in the first half but, ended up playing seven minutes, some of it during crunch time. He made some mistakes, but perhaps for the first time this year, he looked like a player who had some idea of what he should be doing on the court.
This may come in handy during the Big East tournament when the team can use the extra depth. C.J. Fair, Kris Joseph and Dion Waiters lost some playing time as a result, but we all know what they can do.
The Orange are now 7-4 against AP Top 25 teams this season. That’s the most wins by any NCAA team this season against the Top 25. The school record is 8 wins, accomplished three times, and last done just last year. The Orange will definitely get a shot at win number eight with their match up in the Big East almost certainly to be a top 25 team.
The Orange are an impressive 6-3 on the road. They are 3-0 in neutral sites, making them 9-3 in games away from home, and 4-2 against ranked teams away from home.
After 30 games, I still do not have this team entirely figured out. I’m guessing most the opposition does not either, which is to Syracuse’s advantage. I do know they know how to win.