Syracuse Holds Off Scrappy Princeton

It wasn't pretty, but it never is against Princeton. No. 6 Syracuse withstood an early offensive onslaught from the Tigers and several runs in the second half to win 56-45 and advance to the semifinals of the Coaches v. Cancer Classic at Madison Square Garden.

"This is the kind of game you're going to get when you play Princeton," coach Jim Boeheim said after the game.

Boeheim said he wasn't sure the game was in the bag until the final buzzer sounded.

"We were lucky down 14-5 to get back in the game," Boeheim said. "You don't usually have that luxury against Princeton."

Princeton came out on fire against Syracuse's man-to-man defense. After Gerry McNamara opened the game with a three-pointer from the top of the key, the Tigers went on a 14-2 run to build a 14-5 lead with 11:00 remaining in the half.

Boeheim substituted Terrence Roberts and Louie McCroskey for Craig Forth and Josh Pace and switched to the patented Syracuse 2-3 zone. The defense stepped up and Roberts had a huge tomahawk follow dunk off a McNamara miss and then a three-point play less than a minute later to give the Orange a 20-17 lead. The Orange never fell behind again.

Behind the zone the Orange outscored Princeton 23-8 over the final 11 minutes of the half to build a 28-23 halftime lead.

"We wasted a lot of time practicing man-to-man," Boeheim said. "We took away the backdoors but allowed them to beat us off the dribble."

Once the Orange stopped Princeton's penetration into the lane Boeheim said he was pleased with his team's defense, especially the defense of Roberts.

"Terrence rebounded the ball well and had his hands in everywhere," Boeheim said. "He was a key player and it was good he was able to come back and play. Roberts injured his knee yesterday against Northern Colorado, but said his knee was good enough for him to play."

"It was sore," Roberts said. "But coach said it was my decision and it felt good enough to get out there and help my team."

The Orange came out in the second half and built a 34-24 lead before Princeton rallied behind its leaders Will Venable and Judson Wallace. After Max Schafer drilled a three with 8:42 remaining the score was tied 40-40. That was last field goal the Tigers would hit.

Behind free throws, a timely three by McNamara, a huge two-handed dunk follow by Hakim Warrick off of a Josh Pace missed free throw, and a Roberts break away dunk the Orange ended the game on a 16-5 run to seal the victory.

McNamara finished with just seven points on 2-of-9 shooting. Demetris Nichols, who found openings against Princeton's match-up zone, finished with 14 points on 3-of-6 shooting from behind the arc. Warrick, the MVP of the Region, had 20 points and six boards and Roberts had eight points and six rebounds.

"I'm not happy with the way I shot," McNamara said. "But I tried to run the point and just make sure everyone was in the right spot to score. It's tough playing Princeton. The game is slow and it's hard to get in rhythm. Princeton had two shot clock violations in the first half and on several possessions waited until the shot clock was under five seconds before attempted a field goal.

Both the players and Boeheim agreed that even though it wasn't pretty, the defense played well and the game will benefit the Orange down the road.

"They are as physical as any team we will play on defense," Boeheim said. "That'll be helpful down the road for sure."

Wallace finished with 11 points and three blocks for the Tigers. Venable scored a team-high 17.

Next up for the Orange is Mississippi State, Nov. 18 at 9:00 p.m. at Madison Square Garden.

Cuse Nation Top Stories