Additionally, the win over the Blue Demons was the first victory away from the Carrier Dome in Big East play as well as the first road win since December 5 against Virginia, and it was also the first win over a conference opponent with an above .500 record in BE play.
Right off the bat the Orange established what proved to be their bread and butter of the evening, pounding it inside to Arinze Onuaku for the game's first bucket. Over the course of the game it became apparent that DePaul had no answer for the big guy from Maryland, as he repeatedly used solid post moves, good positioning on the offensive glass, and both hands to score a game-high 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting.
The Orange maintained a slim lead in the early going, as they continued to work the ball inside for buckets from Donte Greene, Paul Harris, and Onuaku with a Greene triple added in for good measure. After an Onuaku free throw made it 16-13 in favor of the 'Cuse, however, the Blue Demons used a 10-0 run fueled by a trey and a three point play from Will Walker to go up 23-16 with 10:31 remaining.
During the run, the Orange showed signs of what has plagued them throughout the year during offensive droughts, settling for jumpers despite superior play inside and getting careless with the ball. Throughout the course of the first half, Syracuse threw several lackadaisical passes that were easily tipped away, and Greene again struggled with his jumper, throwing up several bricks during the dry spell for the Orange offense.
Things got back on track for the Orange when they began to once again attack the rim, with a dunk by Onuaku and a driving bucket from Jonny Flynn cutting it to a five point game. Syracuse got it back within three at 27-24 when Kristof Ongeneat pulled down an offensive board and knocked down a pair of free throws after being fouled with 7:19 left in the half.
Two more free throws from Ongeneat made it a one point game, and after Dar Tucker scored to put DePaul up 29-26, the Orange closed the half with a 6-2 run to go into the break up 32-31. Rick Jackson scored on a bucket inside, Greene threw down a two handed jam, and Onuaku scored a layup during the run in which Syracuse continued to exploit DePaul's big men.
The Blue Demons managed to establish their lead behind strong shooting right out of the gates, finding openings in the Syracuse zone and hitting multiple midrange jumpers, but the Orange defense tightened up and Syracuse started to control the defensive glass late in the half as they came back from their seven point deficit.
Syracuse went right back into attack mode to start the second half, with Onuaku again getting things started on a feed from Harris and Flynn scoring moments later to make it 36-31 just under two minutes out of the break. However, Mac Koshwal and Walker combined for seven points over the next two plus minutes as DePaul took a 40-38 lead following a three point play for Koshwal at the 15:49 mark.
Syracuse re-established its inside game to take the lead back, pounding it into Onuaku for 10 of the next 12 points to go up 52-49 with 6:14 to go. One of the biggest plays of the game for Syracuse came moments later when Ongeneat laid in a follow on a missed three by Greene to put the Orange up 54-49 with three minutes to go, snapping a scoring drought for both teams and giving the Orange a little more breathing room as the game wound down.
DePaul cut it to one after a Tucker basket and a pair of free throws by Karron Clarke, but Flynn found Harris for a basket to push it back to a 56-53 lead with exactly a minute on the clock, and Harris and Greene combined to go 4-of-5 from the line down the stretch to seal the victory.
Overall it was a solid performance by the 'Cuse, still reeling from its string of bad luck with injuries, suspensions, and a back court now consisting of just one true guard in Flynn. Seven players entered the game for the Orange, though Justin Thomas logged less than a minute toward the end of the first half.
Greene finished with 14 points and five rebounds, but continued what has been a somewhat troubling trend of firing up jumper after jumper despite a generally poor result. The freshman hit just 4-of-15 attempts from the field, including just 1-of-7 from deep. Collectively, the Orange shot a woeful 1-of-13 from beyond the arc, a worrisome statistic that could easily become the trend going forward.
Despite a few ill-advised attempts at creating his own offense and poor decisions with the ball, Harris turned in a strong overall performance with 10 points, eight rebounds, and a game-high seven assists. Harris was just 3-of-8 from the field, but made free throws down the stretch and was the primary distributor on a less than stellar night for Flynn, who scored only six points on 3-of-11 shooting and registered a single assist.
Aside from Onuaku, perhaps the biggest spark was Ongenaet, who scored just six points but grabbed nine boards and made several big plays. Ongenaet continues to grow as a player with the season going on, and is looking more and more comfortable on offense. His hustle and rebounding have been there all year, but he's finally starting to look like he may not be an offensive liability after all.
On the flip side, Ongenaet and Greene both continue to be liabilities on defense from their positions in the back of the zone. Both players have tendency to come extremely high on the perimeter, allowing the corners to go virtually unguarded. While Ongenaet hustles to recover, he's often too late and out of position. Meanwhile, on Greene's side the opposition continually gets good rebounding position because of how far from the basket Greene has roamed.
Any win, at this point, is a good win for Syracuse. Still, there are some troubling things to be taken from this game, such as the dismal performance by Flynn. The freshman point simply looked out of sync all night. Greene also continues to rely far too much on his jump shot, which doesn't fall as often as he thinks it should. While he should be an incredible mismatch for opposing teams with his size and offensive prowess, he makes things far too easy by settling for heave after heave, instead of attacking the rim.
In the end though, this was a great show of heart and character for the Orange, playing with basically no substitutes on the road against a solid conference opponent. For a team facing the type of adversity that could very well cause such a young and inexperienced group to crumble, this team showed grit and determination well beyond its years, making play after play to hold off the home team and seal the win.
Orange Score Road Win at DePaul
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