The opening minutes of a game have been a problem for the Orange, but not tonight. After five minutes and a tie score, SU took the lead with five quick points from Andy Rautins. The score was 13-9 and the ‘Cuse continued to play UConn tough, holding the lead for about seven minutes.
Even though Syracuse had the advantage, Connecticut slowly chipped away at the deficit. With the Orange up 21-16, the Huskies scored the next five points to tie the game. Overall, UConn outscored the Orange 15-6 to end the half and headed into the locker room with a 30-27 lead.
Considering how the Orange has been playing on the road, head coach Jim Boeheim had to be happy with the first half. Syracuse did a great job of denying the entry pass to UConn center Hasheem Thabeet. Active hands in the 2-3 zone defense led to a number of turnovers, but the Orange still trailed.
Coming out of the locker room, Syracuse tied up the game after back-to-back three pointers by Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris. But after a thunderous one-handed dunk by Harris knotted the game at 35, the Orange would find itself behind for the rest of the night.
The Huskies slowly built their lead up to seven, but Devendorf hit a shot from beyond the arc to trim it down to four. UConn would respond by putting together the most important scoring run of the night. With a little less than thirteen minutes remaining, the Huskies scored twelve unanswered points to take a 56-40 lead.
Syracuse clawed its way back into the game, scoring five straight points to pull to within single digits. But it never really threatened UConn, who held the Orange scoreless for the final five and a half minutes to win its twelfth consecutive game.
Some other observations from Syracuse's 63-49 loss at Connecticut:
- The amazing thing about this game had to be the first half. Syracuse did just about a good a job as it could've on defense. Point guard Johnny Flynn played solidly, scoring eleven points. But the Orange ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard after those twenty minutes. SU missed some opportunities to take control of the game early on, which is so crucial when playing on the road.
- Syracuse forced twenty turnovers, but UConn overcame that by clamping down on defense. The Huskies shot just under 44 percent which isn't great, but the Orange made less than 32 percent of its field goal attempts. That's because UConn blocked 11 shots, seven of those coming from Thabeet. He was just too much to handle down low.
- It was a tough night for a lot of the Syracuse players, but once again the guy supplying the effort was Kristof Ongenaet. Over the last three games the Belgian has found his groove again. He's not going to score much, but Ongenaet gives you all-out hustle every time he steps on the court. Tonight he collected eight rebounds (team-high), accounted for three of SU's four blocked shots, and stole the ball three times in 28 minutes.
- The Orange's main offense was again Flynn and Devendorf. They were the only two to score in double-figures, combining for 28 of SU's 49 points. Arinze Onuaku is still nowhere near healthy which is disturbing news for the ‘Cuse. It needs the big man to be a dominant inside force to complement the guard play on the outside. Hopefully, an eight-day break after the Georgetown game will be enough time for A.O. to get back to one hundred percent.
Syracuse (18-7, 6-6 Big East) has dropped five of its last six games. The Orange comes back to the Carrier Dome for an "Orange-out" against hated Georgetown. That game is on ESPN with a noon tip-off.