The Orange opened up the contest scoring the first six points. With SU on top 6-4, the ‘Cuse held Cincinnati scoreless for the next five minutes. During that time, the Orange scored thirteen points to extend its lead to 19-4.
After a couple Cincinnati baskets, the Orange went on a 12-0 run to pull ahead 34-11. During the run, Paul Harris was fouled hard on a break-away layup attempt by Bearcats forward Alvin Mitchell. When officials reviewed the play they assessed Mitchell with an intentional flagrant foul and he was ejected from the game. As Mitchell left the court, he mockingly clapped to the 25, 139 fans in attendance. Not exactly a smart thing to do, especially since the Bearcats were already trailing by twenty at that point.
For the second straight game, Syracuse's defense held its opponent to under twenty points in the first half. In fact, Cincinnati's seventeen points was its lowest first-half output of the season. The Bearcats couldn't solve the Orange's 2-3 zone, shooting a paltry 6-of-30 (20 percent) from the field and only making one of its fifteen three-point attempts. For the ‘Cuse, Jonny Flynn scored twelve of his team's 40 points.
If there was any doubt about SU's first half performance, all five starters scored at least one basket in a 14-4 run to open the second half. The run gave the Orange its biggest advantage at 33 points with the score 54-21.
Syracuse's defense fell asleep soon thereafter, allowing the Bearcats to go on an 11-0 run to cut the deficit to 59-37. That was about the only blemish for the Orange as it steady the ship a few minutes later. Harris' highlight reel alley-oop dunk from Flynn put the Orange back up by thirty and reinforced the message that SU is playing for an NCAA Tournament berth.
With the Orange up big, the bench players saw time for the second straight game. It was an impressive win for SU who has now won two straight laughers and appears to be playing its best basketball heading into the final stretch of the season before Selection Sunday.
Some other observations from Syracuse's 87-63 win over Cincinnati:
· What a difference it makes when the Orange commits itself to playing defense. Cincinnati just could not get anything going on offense in the first half. While Syracuse's trapping didn't cause many turnovers, it disrupted the Bearcats rhythm which resulted in lots of missed shots. SU turned those misses into fastbreak opportunities as it outscored the Bearcats 21-2 in transition. It's absolutely scary to see this team operate on run with so many guards who can shoot and also finish around the hoop.
· Another reason why the Orange looked so good was because it held on to the rock. Turnovers have plagued this team so many times this season, but not today. For the game, SU committed only six turnovers. The most positive sign has to be guard Eric Devendorf who only lost the ball once while dishing out five assists.
· It was nice to see freshman Kris Joseph play well when he got some playing time in the second half. Joseph scored eight points on 3-of-6 shooting which included two trifectas. The frosh has a smooth looking jump shot and if he could get a little bit of confidence, he may be a little surprise for SU in tournament play.
· Offensively nobody truly stood out because there was such a nice balance. Flynn led the way with seventeen points and seven assists. He looks to be in complete control on the floor. Fellow Niagara Falls native Harris was right behind Flynn with 16 points. Devendorf struggled a little shooting (4-of-12), but scored 13 points and distributed the ball well. The two big men played terrific for the ‘Cuse. Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson each scored in double-figures, combining for 23 points on 11-of-13 shooting. Onuaku grabbed seven boards and dished out a career-high three helpers while Jackson made all six of his field goal attempts. And Kristof Ongenaet deserves some love. The Belgian dove on the floor immediately after checking into the ball game. He led SU with nine rebounds and scored seven points in nineteen minutes of action.
Syracuse (21-8, 9-7 Big East) plays its final home game of the season against Rutgers on Tuesday. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPNU.