The Orange almost gets tangled in the Spiders' web, but is able to avoid it in a 76-71 win over Richmond Tuesday night in the second round of the College Basketball Experience Classic.
Tonight can be considered the real first game for Syracuse because let's be serious, a Division II squad like LeMoyne isn't going to show the character of a team. That was the case as the Orange cruised past the neighboring Dolphins with a 34 point win. But SU found itself in a nip-and-tuck game against Division I Richmond.
The Spiders looked extremely confident after falling behind seven early on in the first half. Richmond would take its first lead of the game with just under nine minutes remaining. That lead was because of the hot shooting from the Spiders. They shot an even 50 percent from the field overall, including 7-of-12 (58.3 percent) from beyond the arc. Syracuse's defense just couldn't get it together, and had no answer for David Gonzalvez. The Richmond guard scored 14 points and hit all four shots he attempted from downtown.
For Orange fans, the scene looked very reminiscent to games last year where teams just launched 3's and connected far too many times. The ‘Cuse headed into the locker room trailing 38-31. But Eric Devendorf would help get the Orange back into the game single handedly.
In the first five minutes of the second half, the junior guard showed the offensive fire power and punch he can bring when he's on his game. Devo hit three straight from beyond the arc and added a layup for an 11-0 run all by himself. After the last basket, Devendorf started talking trash to the Richmond players. It may not be sportsmanship, but that's the swagger that was missing from the floor last year.
At this point SU led 44-40, and while Devendorf packed the punch, Jonny Flynn showed why he can be counted on as the leader of this team. When the offense was stagnant, when the shot clock ran under ten seconds, the point guard was the one to take the responsibility of scoring the basketball. Flynn scored 19 second half points, and drove to the hoop a number of times forcing the referees to call fouls that sent the sophomore to the line 13 times in the second stanza.
The Orange stretched its lead to 69-58 with about four minutes to go and held on to win by five points. It was the Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf show in the second half as the two combined to score 37 of SU's 45 points.
Some other observations from Syracuse's win over Richmond:
· At times it looks like Arinze Onuaku isn't posting up as much as he should be. He's so big and strong and has got to get more touches. That being said, the 6-9, 278 pound center had 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field.
· The SU defense left something to be desired after its inability to stop Richmond from scoring in the first half. But the effort was much better in the second frame. After making seven three-pointers in the first half, the Spiders only found the range from downtown once on 1-of-12 (8.3 percent) shooting.
· Andy Rautins looked awful. In 26 minutes, the junior guard scored one point and was 0-of-7 from the field and attempted five three-pointers. Everyone raves about Rautins being a great shooter. I haven't seen it yet. Then again, it's only the second game of the year.
· Head coach Jim Boeheim didn't exactly look to his bench tonight with such a close game. Rick Jackson only saw nine minutes, Kris Joseph got 12, and freshman Mookie Jones did not see any action.
Syracuse (2-0) takes on Oakland (Michigan) on Friday night at home. Then the Orange travels to Kansas City for its first test of the year as it faces the Florida Gators in the semi-finals of the College Basketball Experience on Monday, November 24th.