Syracuse shows heart - of a champion?

It was a classic letdown game, and for 20 minutes the Syracuse Orangemen let everyone down. Trailing 54-36 at Rutgers at the half, Jim Boeheim's club had the folks at ESPN worried that viewers would switch the channel to watch "Trading Spouses" on Fox.

Instead, the Orangemen showed the heart of -- maybe -- a champion.

On the road, in a difficult venue to play, the Orangemen immediately took control of the tempo in the second half, forcing turnovers on the first three Rutgers possessions and scoring the first nine points of the stanza. Just like that, all the confidence and swagger that had been on the faces of the Scarlet Knights transferred to the Orange. Syracuse battled back, took the lead, and hung on with a late Terrence Roberts three-point play to beat the Scarlet Knights 86-84.

The victory, which followed a 72-64 win over West Virginia on Saturday, kept the Orange unbeaten in the league, joining Boston College atop the standings. Both have a two-game lead in the loss column over everyone else.

Because of the unbalanced Big East schedule, the two teams meet only once this season; Feb. 19 at Boston College. Two games with Pittsburgh and a trip to Connecticut await in between, so it's a huge stretch to assume this team will still be unbeaten when it makes the trip to Boston.

But with a performance like in the second half Monday night, it would be tough to bet against the Orange.

NOTES, QUOTES

-- The victory over Rutgers was the 13th win in a row for the Orangemen, and the 20th of the season. It's the 27th time Jim Boeheim has won 20 or more games in his 29 years at Syracuse.

-- Syracuse took 15 three-pointers against Rutgers. Thirteen of those came from Gerry McNamara (he made five). Hakim Warrick and Louie McCroskey each shot one from long range; neither made it.

PROBABLE LINEUP: Point guard Gerry McNamara, shooting guard Josh Pace, wing guard Louie McCroskey, center Craig Forth, forward Hakim Warrick.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Great teams are going to have to accept criticism, and we all dished it out to each other. That's what it's all about. If you can still love each other and still care about each other after you've just screamed in each other's face, that's what makes a great team."
-- Gerry McNamara, on what happened at halftime against Rutgers.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

UPCOMING GAMES: at Pittsburgh, Jan. 29

KEYS: Pitt has not really been the Panthers team of the past couple of seasons, but it's still a tough, physical group that can cause problems. Hakim Warrick can expect 40 minutes of pushing and showing, and Gerry McNamara the same. But Pitt tends not to put many points on the board and, though the Panthers shoot the three-pointer fairly well, the Panthers don't take a lot of outside shots. The matchup zone could present the Panthers with real problems if Craig Forth can keep Chris Taft from doing too much damage on the inside.

ROSTER REPORT: Point guard Billy Edelin played his best game of the season against West Virginia, coming off the bench to score 12 points and dish off seven assists in his 30 minutes of action.

-- Hakim Warrick got his 10th double-double of the season with 22 points and 13 rebounds against West Virginia. However, he was held short of that plateau in the Rutgers game, with just seven rebounds to go with his 21 points.

-- Demetris Nichols only played one minute against Rutgers. The former starter has seen his minutes continue to decline as Jim Boeheim shortens his rotation.

Cuse Nation Top Stories