Syracuse Tames the Huskies

The Syracuse University men's basketball team took the floor of the Carrier Dome tonight for their fourth contest of the 2006-2007. Their opponent was the Northeastern University Huskies of the Colonial Athletic Association conference, who were faced with the unenviable task of opening their season against the #20 ranked Orange.

The Orange got on the board quickly when Josh Wright connected on a baseline three point shot during SU's first possession. But sloppy defensive play allowed the Huskies to keep pace in the game's early going. On the opposite side of the floor, Northeastern zoned the home team with impunity, daring the bigger, more athletic Orange to shoot from the perimeter. In fact, NU was able to capitalize on poor rebounding and transition defense by the home team to coast out to an early 19-5 lead that precipitated an timeout from exasperated Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. Boeheim responded with mass substitutions and a switch to zone defense to counter an 8-9 shooting start from the Huskies.

Superfrosh Paul Harris immediately made a strong move to the baseline, ending a 13-0 run by Northeastern, and his presence on the defense end began to pay dividends as the listless Orange finally ratcheted up the pressure. After another stop, Harris muscled in driving basket. Then he followed that with a third consecutive basket and a steal that led to an Andy Rautins fastbreak score. Suddenly, the Orange were back in the game at 22-16.

Unfortunately, SU again went cold, and both teams traded multiple empty possessions before Northeastern drilled a long three point shot. The Orange countered less than 7 seconds later with a 25 foot trifecta from Rautins, and after a Harris steal on the ensuing possession, he fed Rautins for a point blank floater that cut the lead to 27-21. After forcing a Huskies miss, Eric Devendorf calmly knocked down a three from the left elbow to cut the lead to three. A Demetris Nichols three pointer on the Orange's next possession tied the game, igniting the Carrier Dome crowd.

Northeastern quickly built another small lead as SU's offensive continuity waned over the next several minutes. But some inspired defensive play—including a hustling, diving deflection from Rautins—prevented the Huskies from extending their tenuous lead over the home team.

The game went back and forth for the next few minutes. SU again tied the game on a Devendorf three pointer. After giving up a baseline layup, Syracuse big man Terrance Roberts threw down a powerful one handed tomahawk offensive rebound dunk. SU forced a steal on Northeastern's next possession, and Harris gave SU its first lead of the game at 34-33 with a second consecutive monster dunk.

SU extended their lead on a coast-to-cost layup and yet another three pointer by Devendorf, forcing the Huskies to call a reactive timeout in hopes of quelling the home team's momentum. But after SU forced a miss on Northeastern's final possession of the half and played for the last shot, a patient Rautins was able to feed freshman slasher Mike Jones for a buzzer beating dunk that gave the Orange their biggest lead of the half. SU went into the locker room leading 41-33. Eric Devendorf led all scorers with 13, but was followed closely behind by Rautins and Harris, who registered 8 points apiece in the first half.

The Orange picked up where they left off in the second half. After trading baskets over the course of several possessions, a Devendorf three pointer made the lead 50-43. After a Northeastern basket, Rautins answered with a three, a steal, and a pair of free throws that extended the Orange lead to its largest margin at 55-46. Harris triggered a beautiful fast break that led to Nichols converting an old-fashioned three point play and the SU lead into double digits for the first time.

The team's best lineup of Devendorf, Rautins, Harris, Nichols, and Roberts helped Syracuse to show their strength on the glass, limiting the Huskies to one-and-outs, and shoring up the porous rebounding that the Orange displayed in the first half. The Orange began to pull away as Northeastern began to lose their legs and foul.

With the game's outcome no longer in doubt, it turned into the Paul Harris show. A driving Harris layup gave him his a career high 14 points, and he followed that up with an open floor steal that led to a posterizing dunk on the next possession that whipped the Carrier Dome crowd into a frenzy.

The Orange lead climbed above the 20 point mark late in the second, turning what began as a close game into a laugher. After a steal in the backcourt led to a Mike Jones slam, the rout was in full effect. When Jones had an offensive rebound putback a few minutes later, he too set a career high [8 points].

Syracuse put the finishing touches on their overmatched opponent, improving their record to 4-0 with tonight's 81-58 victory. Eric Devendorf led all scorers with 19, having shot 4-8 from three, while also dishing out a team high 8 assists. Paul Harris registered a career high 16 points [on 7-10 shooting]. He also hauled in 13 caroms. Power forward Terrance Roberts only scored four points, but did yeoman's work on the boards, snaring 14 rebounds. Other noteworthy performances were turned in by Demetris Nichols, who scored 15, Andy Rautins, who scored 13, and Mike Jones.

Next up for the Orange: Charlotte on Wednesday, November 22nd.

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