The Orange established the inside game immediately, as 258 pound center Arinze Onuaku banked one off the glass. SU's next basket was a two-handed flush by power forward Rick Jackson. After seven minutes, the Orange already led 12-2.
About mid-way through the first half, the lead reached sixteen after a layup from Johnny Flynn. The sophomore looked absolutely electrifying in this game. Well, I guess that's not really much of a change from the norm. But Flynn definitely had a jump in his step, looking fully rested after four grueling games in the Big East Tournament.
The Lumberjacks, appearing in their first NCAA Tournament from the Southland Conference, couldn't find the range. Dealing with a large disparity in height (SFA point guard Eric Bell is the shortest player in the Big Dance at 5' 3"), the Lumberjacks couldn't make shots over the long, out-stretched arms of the Syracuse 2-3 zone. SFA went 9-of-33 (27.3 percent) from the field and did not make a three-point shot on eleven attempts.
The Orange weren't feeling any sympathy as guard Eric Devendorf canned SU's first three-pointer of the contest to increase SU's advantage to eighteen. Minutes later, another basket by Flynn gave Syracuse a twenty point lead, the largest of the first half.
At the half, the Orange led 38-22 behind the scoring of Flynn and Jackson. Both had ten points each and epitomized why SU was so dominant. The flashy point guard used his strength and quickness to get into the lane for easy shots. Breaking down defenders also allowed Flynn to find the big man Jackson for layups and dunks. The good looks led to a 62.5 percent success rate on shots for the Orange offense.
Much of the second half was a sloppy affair, probably much to the disliking of head coach Jim Boeheim. But there was never any real threat to the Orange. Syracuse opened the final twenty minutes with a 12-2 run. Onuaku made three straight baskets to start the run, including two dunks on the fastbreak to push the lead to a game-high 26 points.
But over the next six minutes, SU felt too comfortable with the large cushion and let up. The Orange made only one basket in that time period, allowing the Lumberjacks to score eleven unanswered points to cut the deficit to fifteen. The one hoop SU made came from Flynn, who drove down the lane and gave a ball fake that froze the SFA defender.
In the ten minutes that followed Flynn's flashy move, the Orange would only score seven points to finish the game. Syracuse turned the ball over 12 times in the second half, committing 21 for the game. Also, SU managed to make only two treys for the entire game, going 2-of-16 on the day. The Lumberjacks actually outscored SU by a point in the second half, but it was cruise control for the Orange as it wins the first round match-up.
Some other observations from Syracuse's 59-44 win over Stephen F. Austin:
· The reason for Syracuse's late season success has been its defense. Today was another solid performance. The Orange held the Lumberjacks to 25 percent shooting, including a 2-for-21 performance from beyond the arc. SFA actually missed thirteen of its first fourteen shots. Leading scorer and Southland Conference Player of the Year Matt Kingsley was held to two points on 1-of-8 shooting.
· The Lumberjacks couldn't cut down the Orange colored trees placed in front of them. Syracuse tied a team-tournament record with eleven blocked shots. Also, the 44 points allowed by the Orange was the second-lowest total allowed by an SU team. In 1992, the ‘Cuse only allowed 43 points to Princeton.
· Flynn led the way for the ‘Cuse with sixteen points and dished out seven assists. His 426 career assists puts him past Leo Rautins (423) for eighth place on the school's all-time list.
· Along with Flynn, three others scored in double-figures for the Orange. Jackson recorded a double-double with twelve points and ten rebounds. The sophomore also swatted away five shots, tying a career-high. Fellow big man Onuaku dropped in twelve points and snatched seven boards. Roommate Devendorf added ten points for the Orange attack.
· Junior Paul Harris apparently jammed the thumb on his left hand during the second half and had x-rays taken after the game. Harris looked fine though, scoring six points and pulling down sixteen boards. That's only three rebounds shy of Derrick Coleman's school-record nineteen rebounds in the 1987 title game against Indiana.
· Senior Kristof Ongenaet did not play in this game as the Belgian is suffering from flu-like symptoms. His roommate and senior walk-on Justin Thomas was also sick and could not even join the team on the bench, staying at the team's hotel room.