After falling behind by as many as 16 points, Syracuse comes back to defeat Cornell 88-78 at the Carrier Dome Wednesday night.
Coming off a 35-point beat down of Colgate, the Orange couldn't get off to a fast start and found itself playing catch-up in the first half. Trailing by four in the early goings, Cornell caught fire, putting together a 12-0 run. Forward Ryan Wittman drained two of his nine three-pointers during the run to stun the 18, 859 in attendance.
But with a little less than eight minutes left in the half, Syracuse started its comeback. Down 33-19, the ‘Cuse went on a 10-0 run of its own, keyed by six points from Paul Harris. But with its lead shrinking all the way to four points, Cornell pushed it back up to ten with about two minutes remaining. Syracuse's Eric Devendorf connected on four free throws and SU went into the locker room fortunate to be down by a score of 40-35.
Fortunate because the Orange made only 10-of-26 (38.5 percent) shots from the field in the first half. The man that kept SU from completely unraveling was point guard Jonny Flynn. The sophomore scored 13 points to keep Syracuse within striking distance.
The second half would be a different story, as the Orange wasted little time tying the game at 42 apiece two minutes in. Syracuse and Cornell would trade the lead back-and-forth with four lead changes. The Big Red looked like it was grabbing back its momentum from earlier in the game as Wittman knocked down another trey on his way to a game-high 33 points. That put Cornell on top by five, but only temporarily.
At the ten minute mark, Harris made a layup and was fouled allowing him to get three the old-fashioned way and put the Orange on top for good. The Big Red wouldn't go away easily though, closing the gap to five with the clock showing a little over five minutes of play left. But the ‘Cuse built up its lead to double digits by sinking seven free throws in the final two minutes to wrap up its eighth victory of the season.
Some other observations from Syracuse's 88-78 win over Cornell:
· This was the biggest comeback win for the Orange since it was down by 20 against Rutgers and managed to pull off the victory during the 2004-2005 season.
· It was ugly on defense for Syracuse as it could not stop Ryan Wittman at all. When head coach Jim Boeheim tried to switch to zone, SU would leave a guy wide open to hit one from beyond the arc. It has become readily apparent that this team just prefers and is more suited to play man-to-man defense.
· Fans could be concerned about the deficits that the Orange has faced this season, but it really shows how good the team is. Last year's squad would not have won this game or any of the games where SU fell behind by double-digits. The players don't get flustered and stick to the game plan which is a sign of a mature team. Five players scored in double-figures for the Orange who shot a scorching 75 percent in the second half.
· After saying that, this team would be lost without Jonny Flynn. They've only played eight games, but Flynn is clearly the most valuable of the bunch. Once again he led the ‘Cuse in scoring with 24 points and is the most efficient with his three-point shot, hitting half of his six attempts.
· One player who continues to be cold from the outside is Andy Rautins. There were so many times where Rautins had an open three-pointer in big spots and just could not knock it down. The junior guard went 2-of-7 from downtown against Cornell. But at least he's been showing tremendous effort on defense with three steals and has shown off his passing touch dishing out six assists in this game. Rautins is more than just a shooter, but it'd be huge if he can start knocking them down from deep on a consistent basis.
· This was the 116th meeting between Syracuse and Cornell. SU has won 31 consecutive games against their in-state opponent.
Syracuse (8-0) and ranked #16/20 is off to its best start since opening the 1999-2000 season with 12 straight wins. The Orange has a ten day break for final exams and returns to the court on Saturday, December 13th against Long Beach State.