No. 4 Syracuse Escapes DePaul 59-57

DePaul had fourth-ranked Syracuse on the ropes for 38 minutes tonight, as the Orange escaped Allstate Arena with a 59-57 win

DePaul (8-13, 1-8) had been a slow-starting team in some of their earlier efforts. That wasn't the case today as the Blue Demons jumped out to a 21-8 lead on Syracuse (21-1, 8-1) in the first six minutes.

"It was exciting, the crowd was really into it," said senior guard Will Walker. "It felt good. Because everybody was scoring towards the beginning, it gave everybody the feeling that if we kept passing the ball and make the extra pass, like Coach has been saying, we'll be fine. We had the feeling that we were going to win."

DePaul lead by as many as 18 points with the score at 33-15 at the 8:50 mark in the first half.

"They did a good job of holding each other accountable," said DePaul interim coach Tray Webster. "They tell each other, we have to get off to a good start."

With such a big first half lead, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim had to be having flashbacks to DePaul's 108-69 win over the Orange at Allstate Arena four years ago, but he must have had a selective memory.

"I've forgotten that game," Boeheim quipped of the worst loss in his coaching history. "I don't think about the past. They made about 15 in a row in that game. It was over before it started in that game."

Most of the players on this DePaul team don't remember that moment in history, but Walker recalled it from when he was a senior in high school.

"I know I did, because I was on my way to come here," said Walker. "I thought about it especially when I saw (former Syracuse player Gerry) McNamara with them before the game. When I was thinking about that game, I knew they were going to come in and Boeheim was going to tell everybody that we'd be ready to play."

DePaul led from the opening until the 4:10 mark in the second half when Iowa State transfer Wes Johnson tied the game on a ferocious dunk in the midst of a 10-0 run. The Orange then opened up to a five point lead on layups by Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph, followed by a Joseph free throw.

The Blue Demons had an opportunity to walk away with a huge upset when with Cuse leading 59-57, Walker missed an open three point attempt with three seconds left in the game.

"I got open off the screen, it's just a shot I usually hit in my history of playing ball," said Walker, who led all scorers with 21 points. "I thought it was still going to go. It didn't feel as good as the other shots off my hand, but it still looked good to me when I let it go and it just didn't go the way I thought."

Webster was happy with the look that Walker had.

"I'll have him shoot it again, again and again," said Tracy.

"He got a decent look at it, luckily the clock ran out," Boeheim added.

Two factors hurt the Demons down the stretch – free throw shooting and the lack of timeouts during Syracuse's stretch run. Once again DePaul only shot 50% from the charity stripe. Sophomore forward Eric Wallace missed two key foul shots with Syracuse leading 58-54 with 2:10 to play.

DePaul had no time outs remaining during the game's final minutes.

"There were situations where we could have called a timeout if we had one in the end, where we could have maybe drawn something up or stopped their momentum as well, but we didn't and we'll learn from it," said Webster.

The last time DePaul met Syracuse, guard Andy Rautins went off for 17 points. There was no repeat performance of that today as the Blue Demons held Rautins to six points on two for 10 from the floor.

"Our offense really never got going tonight at all," said Boeheim. "This was a game where DePaul came out ready to go and had tremendous effort. We came out, we weren't ready to go. We didn't have great effort. They were aggressive defensively right from the beginning."

The Orange finished with three players in double-figures. Johnson led Cuse with a double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds and also dished out seven assists. Joseph contributed with 15 off the bench and forward Rick Jackson chipped in with 10 points.

In the end, it was a game that DePaul let slip away, but one where they were pleased with the improved effort.

"Close but no cigar," said Webster. "Our guys did a good job of following the game plan. These kids battled, they're fighting."

Notes:

- Coaches from both teams wore sneakers with their suits today to show their support for cancer research as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer program.

- Chicago Bulls General Manager Gar Forman was in attendance along with other NBA scouts on press row.

- Former Blue Demon and current DePaul Director of Basketball Operations Tom Kleinschmidt was inducted into the DePaul Athletics Hall of Fame at halftime. Kleinschmidt was the first player at DePaul to earn conference player of the year honors when he was named by the Great Midwest Conference in 1995. He finished his career as the only player in Blue Demon history with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists, 100 steals and 100 three-point field goals.

- Today's attendance of 11,554 was the largest of the year for DePaul.

- The Blue Demons now head on a three game road trip where they travel to Marquette, Connecticut, and Seton Hall. DePaul doesn't return to Allstate Arena until February 16th.

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