Lesson Learned: Syracuse defeats Washington

The Syracuse Orange returned to the winning column on Friday night with an exciting 91-85 victory over the Washington Huskies in the consolation game of the Preseason NIT. Syracuse was paced by superfrosh Donte Green, who turned in another impressive performance with 25 points and 7 rebounds.

Effort; intensity; poise—three aspects of cohesive team basketball that generally lead to on-court success. Unfortunately, all three of these qualities were lacking in Syracuse's uninspired loss to Ohio State in the semifinal of the Preseason NIT tournament. The Orange looked to get back in the win column and make a statement against the Washington Huskies, who entered Friday's consolation game with a 3-1 record after losing to Texas A&M in the tournament's other semifinal game.

Against the Buckeyes, Syracuse showed alarming lapses on both sides of the ball. Poor shot selection, rushed shots, and one-on-one play disrupted the Orange's offensive continuity. On the other end of the ball, poor perimeter defense and slow defensive "help side" rotations inside led to easy scoring opportunities for Ohio State, who exploited the Syracuse lack of experience and put on a clinic with team execution on both sides of the ball. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim had two days to harp on his team's miscues and preach the need for more effective team play—but would his young team learn their lesson and bounce back?

The difference in effort was evident from the opening tip, with the Syracuse players demonstrating more hustle, effort, and intensity than what was shown against Ohio State. Unfortunately, the extra energy with which the Orange attacked the rim did not translate on the glass, and the Huskies were able to keep the game close in the early going by dominating the Orange on the glass. Despite the fact that Syracuse was able to capitalize on several early fast break opportunities, the Huskies exploited a commanding 14-3 rebounding edge in the game's first 7 minutes to jump out to an early lead. When the Huskies shredded the zone for an inside layup that gave the Pacific 10 team a 21-14 lead at the 12:12 mark, Boeheim called timeout in an attempt to quell the Washington momentum.

Syracuse immediately forced a Washington turnover, leading to a Paul Harris dunk on a 3-on-1 fastbreak that cut the lead to 5. But the Huskies, showing greater offensive patience than their inexperienced counterparts, quickly responded with a pair of baskets that ballooned the lead to 25-16. Syracuse countered with a driving floater from freshman guard Antonio "Scoop" Jardine, and after forcing a turnover on the Huskies' ensuing possession, went into the under 12 minute timeout trailing only 25-18.

Although Syracuse started the game shooting a 5-9 from the field, the team was unable to sustain the momentum, converting a woeful 2-8 after the hot start. With the rim proving unkind, the Orange turned up the defensive intensity, forcing Washington turnovers on the next four Husky possessions. Syracuse cut into the lead by scoring on the team's next three possessions. The run began with Donte Greene nailing a tough turnaround jumpshot, after which Flynn tacked on a pair of free throws. After Harris added a fast break dunk that cut the lead to 25-24, sophomore center Arinze Onuaku drew an over the back foul and converted the front end of a pair of free throws to tie the game. Syracuse took the lead at the 7:12 mark behind another pair of Onuaku free throws—capping an 11-0 Syracuse run.

After forcing another steal, Harris was charged with a dubious offensive foul, negating a three point scoring opportunity for the Orange. The foul was Harris's third—sending him to the bench for the rest of the 1st half.

Perhaps inspired by the questionable call, Syracuse forced two more Washington turnovers, and punished their opponents with a pair of dunks from Onuaku and Greene that gave the Orange their largest lead of the game—31-25. 15-0 run for the good guys.

Washington broke their 4:45 scoring drought by converting a three-on-one fast break after an Orange turnover. But the Huskies then fouled Flynn on a driving foray to the basket, and after the point guard knocked down the pair of free throws, the lead was once again stretched to six points.

The Huskies answered with a three point shot from the left elbow, but Donte Greene responded by drilling a gorgeous jump shot from straight away after leaving his defender behind on an ankle-breaking crossover move.

A significant key to the first half was the fact that the Orange kept Washington power forward Jon Brockman in check. The 6-7 240 junior had been a force in the Huskies' first four games, averaging an impressive 22.5 points per and 12.5 rebounds per game. However, against the Orange, Brockman wasn't able to get on track, failing to score until the 4:10 mark . Brockman finished the 1st half with only 1 point on 0-3 shooting.

Washington cut the lead to 36-32 after an intentional foul call on Jardine gave them two free throws and the ball. But after Brockman threw the ball away on Washington's possession, Syracuse countered with a pair of Donte Greene jumpshots—the second from behind the NBA three point line. Washington failed to connect on a three point shot of their own, leading to an old fashioned three point play from Jardine that gave the Orange their largest lead of the game at 44-35. Brockman's tough night continued as he committed a traveling violation and picked up his second foul a few possessions later when he committed a frustration foul on Greene after a missed shot.

As poised as the Huskies looked early on, fifteen 1st half turnovers more than offset the team's early dominance on the glass. Greene extended the Syracuse lead to double digits on a pair of free throws, and after a Washington dunk on the next possession, the Orange played for the last shot.

Unfortunately, Devendorf mismanaged the SU's final possession, committing an offensive foul 35 feet from the basket that gave the ball back to Washington with 11 seconds to go. Washington missed a three pointer at the buzzer, and the Orange went into the locker room with a 48-39 lead.

Greene led the way for the Orange in the first half, registering 15 points [on 5-7 shooting], and 3 rebounds. Equally as instrumental in the team's strong first half was that the Orange managed to take much better care of the basketball than against Ohio State, committing only 6 turnovers. Syracuse also showed maturity on the offensive end, closing the half on a 32-14 run after trailing in the game's early going.

Harris got things started quickly in the second half, popping a mid range jumper from the top of the key. The Huskies responded by scoring the game's next 3 points, but a driving, contested layup by Flynn again gave Syracuse a 10 point lead [52-42].

Seeking to harass the inexperienced Orange into mistakes, the Huskies went to a full-court press. Although this move enabled Washington to cut the lead to 52-46, the gambit backfired on the Huskies, as Brockman picked up 2 quick fouls in the first 2:39 of the second half—giving him 4 for the game. Exasperated Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar drew a technical foul disputing the call, but the fiery outburst from their coach seemed to inspire the Huskies, who quickly cut the lead to 55-50.

After several empty possessions for both teams, Syracuse executed a beautiful 3-on-2 fast break that led to a dunk by Greene. After Washington answered with a long jump shot, the Orange ran a pick and roll to freshman center Rick Jackson that drew another foul on the Huskies. Although Jackson only converted 1 of 2 free throws, the number of fouls on the Washington frontcourt players was beginning to add up, and would become a factor down the stretch.

Washington attacked the rim on their next several possessions, but was unable to convert several point-blank opportunities. And by sending several players to the glass, the Huskies were out of position to counter the SU fast break. A quick kick-out on a Washington miss led to a driving layup by Jardine that drew a Washington timeout. Despite calling a set play, the Huskies failed to execute and again turned the ball over. Devendorf drilled a three-pointer in transition that again gave the Orange a double-digit lead [63-54]. Unfortunately, Devendorf picked up his 4th foul on Syracuse's next possession, sending the team's only upperclassman to the bench at the 11:29 mark.

Although the momentum was now in their favor, Washington threw a lazy pass on the next possession that led to a full court Paul Harris dunk. But while the Orange celebrated the sensational play, the Huskies pushed the ball and answered with an alley-oop dunk of their own.

Another Washington miscue led to another Harris basket, and after Jackson nailed a pair of free throws on the next possession, Syracuse had their biggest lead of the game [69-56]. Sensing the game's momentum slipping away, Romar was forced to reinsert Brockman into the game at the 10:00 minute mark. But Syracuse responded by working the ball inside to Jackson again, who drew yet another foul on the beleaguered Washington frontcourt.

The disjointed Huskies continued to be victimized in transition by the more athletic Orange, who looked to push the ball at every opportunity. On the opposite end of the floor, the discombobulated Huskies seemed incapable of running their base offense, turning the ball over on 7 of their next 10 possessions.

Playing with a comfortable 74-62 lead, the Orange exhibited much more poise on the offensive end than they showed against Ohio State, getting the ball inside and fouling Washington starting center Joe Wolfinger out at the 7:06 mark. Wolfinger finished the game with 5 points and 7 rebounds—most of which came in the 1st half. Perhaps having learned a valuable lesson after being outplayed by Ohio State senior point guard Jamar Butler, Flynn orchestrated the Orange offense to near-perfection, finding Greene for a baseline jumpshot after working 30 seconds off of the shot clock.

Devendorf reentered the game with under 5:30 to play, and quickly scored on a driving baseline layup that gave Syracuse an 80-68 lead. But the frantic Huskies scored on their next two possessions, cutting the lead to 8. After forcing a turnover by Flynn, Washington capped a 7-0 run on a three pointer from shooting guard Morris that cut the lead to 5. Boeheim quickly countered with a timeout to stem the tide and get his team into offensive synch.

After drawing a foul, Flynn calmly knocked down a pair of free throws that gave the Orange a bit of breathing room [82-75]. And after Washington missed on a three point attempt, Greene snared a tough rebound in traffic that drew yet another foul on the Huskies. But the talented freshman was unable to convert either free throw, leaving the door open for a final Washington run.

Fortunately for SU, Washington starting point guard Overton fouled out at the 3:11 mark, and Syracuse was able to stretch the lead back to 9 points [84-75] on two Devendorf free throws. Washington continued to attack, cutting the lead to 7 points, but the ‘Cuse quickly answered when Flynn found Greene inside for a layup—giving him 25 points and 7 rebounds for the game.

Foul trouble continued to plague the Huskies, as Brockman fouled out at the 2:09 mark. But after Onuaku failed to capitalize on either free throw, the Huskies were able to cut the lead to 86-81 with 1:39 to play. The Orange were able to run the shot clock down on the team's next possession, but were unable to convert a Devendorf shot attempt. A Washington drive on the ensuing possession was blocked by Greene. The miss was tracked down by Flynn, who was quickly fouled. Stepping to the charity stripe with the game still in doubt, Flynn converted only one of two, and after Washington drove for a quick score. The lead was down to four.

Devendorf was fouled on Syracuse's next possession, but like Flynn was unable to put the game away after failing to convert the 2nd free throw. Washington scored again to cut the lead to 88-85, and immediately fouled Flynn. Amazingly, Flynn missed the 1st free throw, but made the second to give the Orange a precarious 89-85 lead.

Onuaku hauled in a rebound in traffic after a missed Washington three pointer, but the free throw woes continued for the Orange, as the sophomore center again made only 1 of 2.

In a last ditch effort, Washington again failed to connect on a three pointer. After the miss was secured by Harris with less than 2 seconds remaining on the clock, the Washington threat was over. Harris tacked on the game's final point, giving the Orange a hard-fought 91-85 victory.

Although they failed to put the game away by failing to capitalize on scoring opportunities at the end of the game, the Orange showed improved toughness, poise, and fortitude in securing a much-needed bounce back victory. The win improved the team's record to 4-1, and gave the team an impressive win against a quality opponent from a BCS conference.

After playing so poorly against Ohio State, the Orange got back on track against Washington. More importantly, the team showed the capacity to deal with adversity and execute better on both sides of the ball.

Next up for Syracuse: Massachusetts at the Carrier Dome, on Wednesday, November 28th.

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