Cincinnati Bungles

The Syracuse University men's basketball team showed their inexperience on Wednesday night, losing their first conference road game to the Cincinnati Bearcats. In what set up as a perfect trap game, the Orange showed that they weren't quite ready for Big East road play by allowing the more aggressive Bearcats to dictate the flow of the game and shut down their potent offensive attack.

The Orange got on the board first after freshman Antonio "Scoop" Jardine nailed a long jumpshot, and took a 4-0 lead after sophomore Paul Harris added a jump shot of his own, before Cincinnati got on the board with a three-point shot from guard Deonta Vaughn. The Syracuse offense worked with precision in the game's early going, enabling the Orange to race out to a quick 16-7 lead. But turnovers and sloppy play prevented the visiting Orange from extending that lead.

Conversely, the Bearcats had difficult finding their range initially, connecting on only 2 of 12 attempts from behind the three-point arc in the game's first seven minutes. Although these shots weren't dropping for the home team at first, the dam was about to burst.

With their offense stalling, Cincinnati began to attack the offensive boards with zeal, capitalizing on several second chance opportunities to take their first lead of the game [21-18] at the 5:35 mark. Syracuse freshman guard Jonny Flynn stopped the bleeding by scoring on a knifing layup in traffic, but he immediately drew a questionable technical foul—apparently for saying something to the referee after the make.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim called a timeout at the 3:57 mark, after a Cincinnati three point shot gave the Bearcats a 26-20 lead, but the Orange failed to make the appropriate defensive adjustments, and the Bearcats responded by drilling three point shots on their next three consecutive possessions—two of which came after unforced Syracuse turnovers.

Amazingly, the Bearcats went on a 28-9 run to close out the first half, turning a comfortable Syracuse lead into a 32-23 halftime deficit. Vaughn was an assassin in the first half, torching the Orange for 20 of his game-high 29 points.

The Syracuse players, normally accustomed to putting voluminous points on the board, fell into a trap that could plague them throughout the Big East conference schedule, as Cincinnati used a simple formula to take the Orange out of their preferred style of play—namely sending waves of players to pound the glass, forcing the less-experienced Orange into turnovers, limiting Syracuse to one-and-done on the offensive end, and most importantly—taking advantage of the Syracuse zone by lighting the Orange up from three point range.

Syracuse opened the second half with a poor shot from Harris that ricocheted off the side of the backboard—a harbinger of the poor play that would follow. But freshman Donte Greene broke a lengthy Orange scoring drought on Syracuse's next possession by connecting on a second-chance layup that cut the lead to 35-25. The Orange looked poised to make a run, but it wasn't long before the same bugaboos derailed the Syracuse comeback attempt. Turnovers, poor rebounding, sloppy one-on-one play, and being limited to one shot on offense enabled the Bearcats to maintain a double digit lead for most of the 2nd half.

With the game slipping away, Greene began to assert himself offensively. After Greene drilled a three point shot, Syracuse scored on a Harris layup [after a gorgeous penetrating feed from Jardine] that cut the lead to 41-34.

The Bearcats countered the Syracuse charge by going into stall mode, running the shot clock down on every possession…and benefiting from aggressive offensive rebounding and several bail-out foul calls against Syracuse to extend their possessions. Another Vaughn jumpshot gave Cincinnati their biggest lead of the game at the 10:00 minute mark, 51-35.

With the Orange completely out of sync on the offensive end, the Syracuse players struggled to run their offensive sets and get the ball inside for easy scoring opportunities. Sophomore center Arinze Onuaku, who had been averaging 14.5 points and 8.2 rebounds prior to Wednesday's contest, got his first [and only] basket of the game at the 8:12 mark of the second half. He would finish the game with only 3 points and 5 rebounds.

Down the stretch, tired legs, poor shot selection, and uninspired rebounding prevented the Orange from cutting into the Cincinnati lead while there was still enough time to make a difference. Syracuse made one final push with under five minutes to play—as Greene scored 8 consecutive points [including a fast break dunk and a pretty turnaround jumpshot from the baseline] to again cut the lead to single-digits. Unfortunately, the Orange were unable to sustain that momentum. The futility was highlighted during one critical Cincinnati possession, where the Orange played solid defense for the duration of the shot clock, forced a long Bearcat shot that was off the mark, but yielded an offensive rebound on the miss, which enabled the home team to retain possession and run even more time off of the clock.

Syracuse cut the lead to 6 points with under two minutes to play, but the Cincinnati players hit their free throws down the stretch, staving off the comeback attempt. The Orange recorded their last points of the game with about a minute to play, cutting the lead to 72-66. But after forcing a Cincinnati miss, SU predictably committed a turnover that led to a breakaway dunk—punctuating a miserable road game for the visiting Orange.

Final score: Cincinnati 74 Syracuse 66

The Bearcats were led in scoring by Vaughn, who torched the nets for 29 points [including 4 of 9 from three point range]. He was joined in double figures by Marvin Gentry [12] and John Williamson [10]. More importantly, Cincinnati outrebounded the Orange 38-29, holding Syracuse to an anemic 40% shooting, including 4-15 from beyond the arc.

The loss wasted solid performances by Greene, who finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds, and Harris, who scored an efficient 20 points on 7-13 shooting. The loss dropped Syracuse to 12-4 overall, and 2-1 in conference play.

Things won't get any easier for the Orange, as they next travel to West Virginia for another road contest, scheduled for Sunday, January 13th, at 2:30 pm. The 11-3 Moutaineers defeated #11 Marquette in their last game [79-64], and play the Louisville Cardinals tonight [January 10th] before taking on the Orange on Sunday.

Cuse Nation Top Stories