Syracuse passes another test, this time on the road as it beats Memphis 72-65 in a top 25 battle Saturday night.
On Friday the Orange received the news that guard Eric Devendorf would not miss the entire season. The university appeals board changed Devo's suspension which will allow him to return after performing 40 hours of community service. But the ruling also meant SU would be without his services effective immediately.
Without Devendorf and an injured Jonny Flynn, how would the Orange fare in its first true road game of the season? Not very well, at least early on. With Memphis on top by one, the Tigers went on a 9-0 run and led 16-6 after a dunk by Shawn Taggart. Flynn hit from beyond the arc to end the run, but Syracuse could only trade baskets with Memphis for the next seven minutes. But with just under five minutes to go, freshman Kris Joseph knocked down a three-pointer to pull the Orange to within one.
The Tigers stretched their advantage to five, but SU closed the half with a 7-0 run. Arinze Onuaku's second straight basket gave the ‘Cuse a slim 35-33 advantage at the break. Syracuse stayed in the game because of, whom else, Flynn. The point guard scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting with the bad hip. Overall, the Orange shot 50 percent from the field and held the Tigers to 37 percent shooting, including an ugly 1-of-15 from three-point range.
After trailing for a majority of the first half, Syracuse was in control for most of the second. Two Memphis free throws tied it in the opening minute, but a Rick Jackson dunk and a three from Andy Rautins gave the Orange a five point lead. A steal by Flynn put SU up by eight as the 2-3 zone continued to frustrate the Tigers.
Memphis wasn't quite done though as head coach John Calipari called a timeout to refocus his team. With two treys and a layup by big man Pierre Henderson-Niles, the Tigers took a 53-52 lead as the clock showed a little less than nine minutes to go. But that lead was short lived as Flynn knocked down a shot in the paint to put the ‘Cuse ahead.
For the next four minutes, the two teams traded blows and the Tigers' pulled to within four with about two and half minutes remaining. But that's as close as Memphis would get. Syracuse added six free throws to push the lead to ten and was enough to give the Orange a huge road victory.
Some other observations from Syracuse's 72-65 win over Memphis:
· Where would SU be without Jonny Flynn? Injured right hip and all, he played every second of this game. Flynn scored 24 points (12 in each half), dished out six assists, and had three steals.
· Facing a very tall and athletic Memphis team, head coach Jim Boeheim decided to give Rick Jackson his first career start. Jackson rewarded his coach's faith by dropping in 14 points which ties his career high that he set on Wednesday against Canisius. At times it doesn't look pretty, but the sophomore from Philly finishes around the basket and gives the Orange much needed help on the boards.
· The man Jackson started for, Kristof Ongenaet, had one of the shortest outings on record. Ongenaet checked in for an inbounds play and could not catch the pass thrown to him, resulting in a turnover. Boeheim immediately put Paul Harris back on the floor and the senior from Belgium was done for the night.
· Syracuse was outrebounded by nine as Memphis held a 19-8 edge on the offensive glass. But SU's zone defense caused the Tigers to miss a ton of shots which led to so many second chance opportunities.
· This game might not have been so close if Syracuse actually made some shots from the foul line. The Orange shot 12-of-26 (46.2 percent) from the charity stripe. Those shots are anything but free for SU.
Syracuse (11-1) and ranked #11 returns to the Carrier Dome Monday night to face Coppin State in its last non-conference game of the season.