Seton Hall struck first with a three-pointer, but Syracuse answered back with eight straight points. After Jeremy Hazell made a shot from downtown to put the Pirates ahead 10-8, the Orange reeled off thirteen unanswered points. Of the six field goals made in the run, five of them were easy transition baskets. The game resembled more of a track meet as the ‘Cuse grabbed the loose ball and pushed it down the court for easy scores. Point guard Johnny Flynn had eight of those points, capping the streak with a bomb from the outside.
With the score 21-10 and everything going the Orange's way, it seemed like SU was going to have an easy win. But with the ‘Cuse on top 25-14 and a little under ten minutes to go, the Pirates began to close the gap. Center John Garcia scored three consecutive baskets to help Seton Hall outscore the Orange 10-2 and pull to within three. But a trey from Andy Rautins pushed the advantage to eight and Syracuse went into the locker room with a 36-31 lead.
After watching the opening twenty minutes, it seemed like the Orange should've had at least a double-digit lead. Syracuse absolutely dominated in transition to open up the game. Flynn was fantastic, scoring 15 points and dishing out five assists. But the defense allowed Seton Hall too many good looks on the inside, instead of making the Pirates shoot from the outside. SHU connected on only 2-of-13 attempts from three-point range in the first half.
The Pirates though would kick-off the second half with three trifectas, taking the lead momentarily and then knotting the game at 42 apiece three minutes in. But about a minute later, things would start to become heated.
Kristof Ongenaet and Arinze Onuaku each went up, and blocked the shot of the Pirates Garcia with 16:08 showing on the clock. Syracuse's big man let out a loud yell after the swat, much to the chagrin of Garcia who had some words with Onuaku. In an attempt to shut Garcia up, A.O. started clapping in his face and then the two exchanged more words and were each assessed technical fouls as teammates had to separate the two.
Seton Hall missed its next shot and SU pushed the ball down the floor. Ongenaet was headed to the hoop for an easy layup when the Pirates' Brandon Walters basically raked his arm across Ongenaet's body. Officials immediately gave Walters an intentional foul as there was no attempt to make a play on the basketball. Players from both sides came rushing in and the Orange's Eric Devendorf and the Pirates' Eugene Harvey exchanged pleasantries. Both were given technical fouls, but the altercation fired up Devendorf and the Orange.
Devo immediately drained a three-pointer after Ongenaet made one-of-two free throws to give SU a 50-44 lead. It was part of an 18-3 run by the ‘Cuse that put it ahead 64-47 as Devendorf ended the run with another three-pointer. The run essentially ended the game and there was still ten minutes remaining in the game.
Eric Devendorf was the difference in the second half for Syracuse. After the technical foul, the junior guard scored sixteen of his nineteen points. In fact, Devo did all his damage in the second half after going 0-of-4 in the opening half. His play allowed head coach Jim Boeheim to insert his bench players into the game as the Orange wrapped up its fifth consecutive victory.
Some other observations from Syracuse's 89-74 win over Seton Hall:
· -The Orange is almost unstoppable when it gets into the open floor. At one point in the first half, it was like SU was running fastbreak drills. The 2-3 zone caused lots of deflections and bad shots that were quickly turned into points on the other end of the floor. Earlier in the season, SU was a bit reckless on the break. Now everyone is finishing around the basket and making smart passes. It's difficult for a team when the Orange is on the break. If the opponent takes away the easy layup, that allows guys like Rautins, Devendorf, and Flynn to spot up on the outside. Not an appealing thought for any opposing head coach.
· -The technical fouls were the best things to happen in this game for the Orange. After jumping out to a sizeable lead, SU seemed to fall asleep which allowed the Pirates to climb back into the game. But the scrums lit a fire under the Orange, especially Onuaku and Devendorf.
· -Devo and Flynn led the way with nineteen points as five Orange players recorded double-digits in the scoring column. Onuaku followed with fifteen while Rautins dropped in eleven. The other player in double figures was Ongenaet who continues to impress. The Belgian finished with twelve points and also had seven assists. The ‘Cuse shot a scorching 66.7 percent from the field in the second half, including 7-of-13 from three-point range to leave Seton Hall in the dust.
· -Syracuse tied a Big East Tournament record with 30 assists on 37 made field goals. Georgetown set the record in 1985 against Connecticut.
· -Stepping away from this game a little bit, how did Johnny Flynn only make second team all-Big East? The first team doesn't even have a point guard on it for crying out loud! And for those who say A.J. Price is more deserving (Price is also on the 2nd team), let's compare. Flynn is the leading scorer on his team and is averaging four more points per game than Price. Flynn's averaging two more assists per game than Price and his assist to turnover ratio is a spectacular 2:1. He's shooting a better percentage from the floor overall, and Flynn's shot well more than twice as many free throws as Price. Tonight Flynn recorded a double-double with 19 points and 11 assists.
Syracuse (24-8) will have a chance at redemption against Connecticut (27-3) tomorrow night. The Huskies took care of the Orange in Storrs earlier this year, winning 63-49. But the last few meetings between these two teams in the Garden has gone the other way. The last being in 2006 when the Orange muzzled the top-ranked Huskies in overtime 86-84 on the heroics of Gerry McNamara. Thursday's game is scheduled to tip-off at 9 p.m. on ESPN.