Center Arinze Onuaku dropped in the first basket for the Orange just fourteen seconds into the game, but Rutgers was not going to lie down for the ‘Cuse. The Scarlet Knights took a 9-4 lead a little more than two minutes into the game after a three from freshman guard Mike Rosario. Syracuse chipped at the lead over the next few minutes and a jumper from Kris Joseph gave the Orange an 18-17 lead.
But with the score knotted at twenty, Rutgers put together a 7-0 scoring run which was ignited by a fastbreak layup from Rosario. Again, the Orange slowly worked the deficit down by going inside to Onuaku. Then with less than two minutes remaining, point guard Jonny Flynn drained a shot from beyond the arc to tie the game at 37 all.
Syracuse went into the break with a 39-38 lead mainly due to Onuaku and junior Paul Harris. Both players had 11 first-half points and went 5-of-6 from the floor. But SU could not get defensive stops when it needed to. And when the Orange did force a bad shot, it was unable to secure the defensive rebound. Rutgers stayed close after outrebounding Syracuse 21-10, while Mike Rosario led all scorers with 12 points.
The second half though would be much different, much to the chagrin of the Scarlet Knights. Baskets by Onuaku and Harris to open the second period of play pushed SU's advantage to five. For the next five minutes or so Syracuse's lead fluctuated between two and six points. But with 12:33 left on the clock, the highlight of the game swung the momentum into the Orange's favor.
Flynn drove down the lane with the ball and leapt right over Rosario and threw down a thunderous dunk to the delight of many SU fans that made the trip to Piscataway, NJ. Rutgers coach Fred Hill was assessed a technical foul after arguing that Flynn should have been charged with an offensive foul. SU never looked back after Flynn's roof-rattling jam.
Over a ten minute period starting at the 15:33 mark and ending with 5:43 left in the game, the Orange connected on twelve consecutive field goal attempts. By the time the streak ended, Syracuse was up 71-59 and really sucked the life out of Rutgers. The Orange did not let the Scarlet Knights creep back into the game and extended its lead to stay perfect in conference play.
Some other observations from Syracuse's 82-66 win over Rutgers:
· The Orange absolutely dominated inside which led to easy baskets and 69 percent shooting in the second half. Not that SU shot poorly in first half though connecting at almost 55 percent. Syracuse is ranked 7th in the NCAA in field goal percentage shooting at a 50 percent clip. That run of 12 made baskets was incredible and it shows how lethal this team is. SU scored 82 points and only made 2-of-6 shots from long range.
· Rutgers stuck around in the first half because it made 50 percent of its shots. But the Orange defense clamped down and held the Scarlet Knights to 8-of-28 (28.6 percent) shooting in the final 20 minutes. After scoring 12 in the first half, Rosario was held in check and finished with 17 points hitting on only 6-of-22 field goals for the game.
· For Syracuse, Andy Rautins only hit one trey, but two early fouls kept him on the bench in the first half. It didn't matter though as the Orange put four players in double-figures, including a season-high 26 point effort from Harris. The junior forward made 11 of his 13 shots. Guess the right hand is okay. Onuaku played very well too, finishing with 19 points and giving SU a strong inside presence. Guards Eric Devendorf and Flynn each had 15 points. Flynn led the Orange in rebounding with 7 caroms and dished out 9 assists without turning the ball over once. The sophomore returned to form in tonight's game, a good sign heading into the toughest part of the schedule.
· With the win, head coach Jim Boeheim passed Lefty Driesell for eighth on the all-time wins list in Division I with 787 career victories.
Syracuse (16-1, 4-0 Big East) and ranked 9/11 goes on the road to face hated rival Georgetown on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2.