SU-WVU Recap

The Orange faithful have been a bit restless after their basketball team dropped its third straight game to Providence a week ago. Even grumblings about head coach Jim Boeheim's job security floated around on the message boards. The Hall of Fame coach righted the ship tonight and put SU back on course.

Much of the first half was closely played, but that's a good sign for SU, which gets in trouble when it has to play from behind.  Early on, the Orange took the lead after Eric Devendorf's only made three-pointer of the night made it 9-6 ‘Cuse.  Syracuse would take a five-point lead after a layup by Paul Harris, but West Virginia stayed within striking distance.

With a little over nine minutes remaining, the Mountaineers' sharpshooter Alex Ruoff drained a shot from beyond the arc to give WVU an 18-17 lead.  But that's the only time the Orange trailed all night.  After six minutes of back-and-forth action and each team trading shots, SU finally delivered the first haymaker of the night with nine unanswered.

The 9-0 scoring run for the Orange started and ended, oddly enough, on a pair of made free throws.  In between those trips to the free throw line Devendorf scored five points, including an old-fashioned three-point play.

Syracuse went into the break leading 37-29, but seemed like it could have been up by more.  Point guard Jonny Flynn led the ‘Cuse with eleven first-half points and made some terrific passes after he penetrated the Mountaineer defense.

The Orange came out of the locker room with a quick scoring burst to push its lead to double-digits.  After a basket by WVU's Da'Sean Butler, SU scored seven straight points in a span of about 40 seconds to go on top by thirteen.

Syracuse wasn't quite satisfied with that lead though, especially Devendorf.  With the clock showing just over fourteen minutes still left, the junior guard showed his swagger hasn't gone anywhere.  Devo scored six points in a 10-0 Orange run that bumped SU's lead up to 20.  When the Mountaineers called a timeout, Devendorf was fired up and showed why he's such an important player for the Orange.

The big lead allowed the ‘Cuse to let up off the gas pedal and that enabled West Virginia to cut the lead down to nine points.  But that's as close as the Mountaineers would come as the Orange defense propelled SU to its first win since a January 17 victory over Notre Dame.

Some other observations from Syracuse's 74-61 win against West Virginia:

  • The reason the Orange won this game was because of its defense.  SU held WVU to 36 percent shooting and kept Ruoff in check.  The senior guard was held to ten points and only knocked down two shots from long range.  The one man that got hot for the Mountaineers was Butler who finished with a game-high 23 points.

  • SU's offense wasn't as efficient as it could've been, but the ‘Cuse shot above 46 percent from the field.  The Orange also did a good job on the glass, winning the battle of the boards by ten.  Even the free throw shooting (13-of-17) was good tonight.  The one sore sight was the amount of turnovers.  Syracuse committed 15 turnovers while dishing out 15 assists.  That ratio needs to be closer to 2:1 assists/turnovers, not 1:1.

  • The X-factor for this team is Harris.  When the junior is on his game, the Orange usually plays well as a whole.  In its three-game skid, Harris' point and rebound totals were in single digits.  Tonight "Do-it-all-Paul" scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season.  You can tell when Harris is playing well by looking at his rebounding total.  Tonight was vintage Paul Harris, relentless energy on the glass.

  • For the second game in a row it was the Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf show.  The duo scored 22 points apiece and hit all three of SU's trifectas.  It's fun to watch these two guys play with one another because they both can drive to the basket and step back and hit jumpers from the outside.  Devendorf really slashed to the hoop tonight and did a good job finishing, especially in the second half when he scored 14 of his 22 points.

  • Coming back from injury, Andy Rautins didn't have much of an impact scoring-wise.  The junior did not score on four shot attempts in 21 minutes off the bench.  Center Arinze Onuaku looked more mobile tonight as he scored four points and took down six boards.  The one surprise of the night was Kristof Ongenaet.  The Belgian got back to his game of hustling on the court and scored six points, grabbed three rebounds, and blocked three shots in 21 minutes.  If he plays like he did tonight, Ongenaet can be a valuable player to bring off the bench when the Orange needs energy.

The 20th ranked Orange (18-5, 6-4 Big East) begins a brutal stretch of games on Saturday when it plays at Villanova.  After that SU travels to Connecticut and then has home games against Georgetown and the Wildcats.  This Saturday's game is a noon start on ESPN.

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