The Orange is able to brush aside the off-court distraction and take care of Long Beach State in a 79-55 victory at the Carrier Dome Saturday afternoon.
With the suspension of junior guard Eric Devendorf by the Syracuse University Judicial Affairs Board, all the talk has been about whether or not the Orange can stay focused on playing basketball. In the first half, SU looked a bit lackadaisical and out of order after the news and the ten day lay-off.
Syracuse led the entire way, but it couldn't establish much control in the first half. With a little over four minutes to go, a layup by Rick Jackson pushed the SU advantage to nine, the largest lead in the opening 20 minutes. But the 49ers would close the gap quickly. Guard Stephan Gilling knocked down two three-pointers to help Long Beach St. close to within three points. But a basket and a pair of free throws from Devendorf gave the Orange a 37-30 lead heading into the locker room.
Long Beach St. was in the game because of the poor shooting by the Orange. The ‘Cuse shot only 40 percent from the field, and point guard Jonny Flynn was 0-of-5 from the floor. Flynn and Paul Harris, the two leading scorers for SU, combined for only three points. The one player that found success was Jackson as he scored nine points off the bench.
That inside presence for Syracuse would be much more of a factor in the second half. This time it came from starting center Arinze Onuaku. The big man scored eight points to help key an 18-4 run that lasted for the opening seven minutes of the second stanza.
The 49ers would momentarily break from its cold shooting with five straight points, but then let the ‘Cuse go on a 17-3 run. Junior Andy Rautins dropped in the last seven points of that streak, pushing the Orange lead to 30, the largest of the afternoon.
With the game in hand with six minutes remaining, the Orange defense was non-existent for the final minutes. But Syracuse held Long Beach St. to nine points in about 13 minutes of play to begin the second half. The 49ers shot only 10-of-39 (25.6 percent) from the field in the second half and were ice cold from long-range, making only 5-of-36 (13.9 percent) from beyond the arc for the entire game.
Some other observations from Syracuse's 79-55 win over Long Beach State:
· The Orange seems to be a second half team. Just look at those comeback wins over Kansas, Virginia, and Cornell. A shaky first period of play followed by a much more focused and energized effort in the second half. That's exactly what happened in this game with those two big runs.
· The 49ers couldn't get anything to go in from long-range, but it doesn't mean the Orange should have played zone. Time and again it's clear that this team wants to play man-to-man defense. It suits the athleticism of guys like Flynn, Harris, and even Rautins who has shown he can guard people straight up.
· Syracuse was outrebounded 25-21 by the 49ers in the first half. But the Orange ended the game with a 50-37 advantage on the boards led by Jackson's nine caroms off the glass.
· Despite the off court issues, Devendorf scored 13 points and dished out five assists without committing a turnover.
· In only 16 minutes of action, Onuaku scored 17 points and was a perfect 7-of-7 from the field.
· For the first time this season, Flynn did not score in double-digits. The sophomore guard finished with nine points on only 2-of-7 shooting.
Syracuse (9-0) and ranked #13/16 plays Cleveland State on Monday night at the Carrier Dome.