A win's a win

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – CBS play-by-play announcer (and Syracuse alumnus) Ian Eagle effectively summed up the effort of the Syracuse University men's basketball team against Miami when he described a Craig Forth put-back as "unattractive but effective."

The Orangemen were coming off a victory over Seton Hall that many called a "dismantling," but was about as pretty as the room of the Andrew Kouwe, Hakim Warrick, and Josh after it was dismantled of several expensive pieces of electronic equipment. At many times, it seemed the rematch with The Hall was really just a replay of the game two weeks before, where the Orange struggled to pull out a four-point comeback victory.

As ugly as that win was, and as ineffective as Carmelo Anthony was, SU still shot over 50 percent from the field. This even takes into account the bevy of bunny shots that Billy Edelin missed in his Carrier Dome debut.

Although the Pirates smothered one of SU's freshman phenoms, holding Anthony to a season-low 11 points, Gerry McNamara picked up the slack with 21 points on 6-10 shooting. ‘Cuse fans shuttered to think of what would happen if both of their diaper dandies had an off night. This happened Sunday against Miami, as Anthony suffered through his third straight sub-par game, and McNamara played his worst game as an Orangeman, shooting a woeful 1-10. Anthony showed visual frustration on several occasions – he pegged the ball against the backboard after the final buzzer rang, not long after he missed his third foul shot of the game. This and other acts of frustration were not unmerited, however, for Anthony was held to 4-15 shooting, which resulted in Syracuse's lowest output of the season, 54 points.

Once again, the saving grace was the defense. Helped by 10 steals and 10 blocks, ‘Cuse held the Hurricanes scoreless over the final 8:37 and gave up a season-low 49 points. In the previous game, SU held The Hall to a 35.3 field goal percentage and its second leading scorer, John Allen, to 1-15 shooting.

Despite Syracuse's stymieing defense, the Orange would not have triumphed over the ‘Canes without Kueth Duany and Warrick stepping up offensively. It seems that regardless of who has an off game, someone picks up the slack. This should be very comforting to followers of The ‘Cuse and very disconcerting to the rest of the Big East, for the Orange cannot be stopped simply by triple-teaming Anthony.

Warrick has developed into one of SU's most consistent players. He has scored in double-figures in five straight games and only failed to reach 20 in one of those. Most notable, however, is his improved free throw shooting. Earlier in the year, if I were told Warrick was the team's leading free throw shooter in a game, I would have cringed and assumed SU must have been slaughtered. This was the case against Miami, however, as Warrick's six for seven performance at the line raised his overall percentage to 64 percent.

Despite the good defense, the Orangemen were out-rebounded for the fourth straight game, 38-44. Twenty-one of Miami's 44 rebounds were offensive; this seems to be the concession that Jim Boeheim is willing to make through his steadfast reliance on the 2-3 zone. To the credit of the defense, in those opportunities, ‘Cuse limited the Pirates to seven second-chance points.

Syracuse plays Rutgers on Wednesday at the Rutgers Athletic Center. This is their final tune-up before the highly anticipated rematch against Pittsburg on Saturday at the Carrier Dome. Pittsburg will be coming off a one-point triumph over Georgetown. To exact revenge for their second loss of the season, the Orangemen will have to maintain the defense intensity that has emerged in the last two games. A breakout game from Anthony wouldn't hurt either.

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