McCroskey's career night ends in loss

For the first 29 minutes and 10 seconds of Syracuse's Monday night game against Pittsburgh, Syracuse guard Louis McCroskey played like a third scoring option that the Orange has desired all season to compliment Gerry McNamara and Hakim Warrick.

McCroskey played like he belonged in the starting lineup – a place that he hasn't been for the past two games – scoring on an array of floaters and 3-point shots while providing solid rebounding. He led all Syracuse scorers at halftime, collecting nine points.

His free throws with 10:50 left in the second half gave Syracuse a 48-44 lead and at that point, McCroksey was 7-of-9 from the field for 18 points and hadn't missed a shot in the second half.

"We wouldn't have even been in the game if it wasn't for Louie," Warrick said. "He went out there and played great for us."

But things started going downhill less than two minutes later when McCroskey missed a runner in the lane. It was a sign of things to come.

Three minutes after that, McCroksey was open from the right corner and fired a 3-pointer. The shot never had a chance, barely catching the rim as the ball sailed long. He would miss two more shots after that.

Still, the sophomore ended up leading Syracuse in scoring for the first time in his young career, finishing with 18 points and seven rebounds (both career highs) as the Orange lost to Pittsburgh 68-64 at the Carrier Dome.

"He missed two or three open shots at the end, but that's something that he'll get used to," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "These are the kind of games that guys like him need."

Sophomore Demetris Nichols started the first eight games of the season before Boeheim inserted McCroskey into the lineup against Binghamton on Dec. 11, 2004. McCroskey provided a boost in the starting lineup initially, scoring 11 points in his first start to go along with four rebounds and three assists.

But he started to struggle and saw less and less playing time as junior guard Billy Edelin began getting back into playing form. Edelin, who missed the majority of last season because of personal reasons, cracked the starting lineup for the first time against Villanova on Saturday, taking McCroskey's spot.

In the three games leading up to the Wildcats game, McCroskey averaged just 17.6 minutes and four points.

McCroskey had no problem with the lineup change, and had actually told Boeheim that he wouldn't mind coming off the bench, Boeheim said. So far, McCroskey has embraced the change.

"It's so different coming off the bench," McCroskey said. "You get to see what the other guys are doing wrong so you can try not to make the same mistakes."

So far, Boeheim is happy with the results.

"What did he have, 18 points?" Boeheim said. "I'm pretty happy with that. He's been good at practice. He's really been playing well at practice. Even though he missed shots, he had good looks and took them. He played great tonight."

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