Syracuse Dunks Mountaineers

On a cold and snowy day the WVU Coliseum was bursting at the seems as students braved the cold and waited in line for up to five hours to get their seats as the Mountaineers took on the 19th ranked Syracuse Orangemen here on Saturday.

The home crowd was tough on the Orangemen, but the Orangemen were tougher, as they overcame a 15-point first-half West Virginia lead to win going away, 94-80.

The Mountaineers started the game on fire as they jumped out to a 16-6 lead on the back of two Kevin Pittsnogle three-pointers and some tough Drew Schifino drives to the basket. Syracuse called time-out to get their bearings as the Mountaineers were tearing up the vaunted Syracuse 2-3 zone defense. The time-out didn't help the Orange much as WVU continued their torrid shooting to jump out to leads of 27-14 and 31-16 before Syracuse switched to a man-to-man defense to try to stop WVU.

Syracuse then began a run of their own, beginning to claw back with some clutch baskets by freshman sensation Carmelo Anthony and strong drives to the basket by Billy Edelein that cut the lead to 36-29 with 8:46 to go in the half.

West Virginia then went cold, not scoring another basket for four minutes. Meanwhile Syracuse continued its roll as they hit from the outside and scored on four dunks and a layup to take a 39-36 lead with 4:43 to go. West Virginia went another minute without scoring and Syracuse seemed to really be in command as they took an eight-point 46-38 lead with 3:25 to go in the first half.

West Virginia then responded with a run of their own as Pat Beilein hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give West Virginia a one-point 47-46 lead at the break.

It was the most first-half points surrendered by Syracuse this season.

West Virginia shot 47.4% from the field in the first half and committed four turnovers.

Syracuse committed seven turnovers in the first half, but shot a sizzling 58.8% from the field in the first half as they outrebounded the Mountaineers 19-17.

Syracuse started the second half on a tear as they opened the second half with a 10-1 run to take a 56-48 lead with seventeen minutes to go.

West Virginia wasn't finished as they mounted two runs in the second half, but could only cut the Syracuse lead to four points at 66-62 with ten minutes to go.

Syracuse then methodically moved ahead of WVU taking their largest lead at 83-68 with 4:00 to go, a lead that send the Mountaineer fans home in droves.

As the fans were sitting in traffic outside the Coliseum, the Mountaineers continued to battle, cutting the lead to nine twice, but could not get any stops late. Syracuse hit their foul shots, and WVU could not convert on its own end as Syracuse took the game 94-80.

Kevin Pittsnogle finished the game with 24 points and seven rebounds for the Mountaineers and Drew Schifino finished with 25 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

Carmelo Anthony finished with 29 points and 12 rebounds to lead five Syracuse double-figure scorers. Hakim Warrick and Billy Edelin both finished with 18 points and Gerry McNamara had 14 points and 12 assists.

WVU shot 42.5% from the field for the game, and 75% from the free throw line. Syracuse shot 58.2% from the field and 68.8% from the free-throw line. Syracuse outrebounded the Mountaineers 43-31.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim indicated that they were having trouble defending the Mountaineers with their big men. They planned on not letting Kevin Pittsnogle shoot from the outside, but their starting lineup was ineffective. He then went to a smaller lineup, which was more effective in both halves, which allowed Syracuse to take control of the game, and never really be threatened after the ten minute mark of the second half.

"We just didn't have any answers for them tonight," said Coach Beilein of his own team's defensive effort. "Syracuse had too many long arms in the Mountaineer 1-3-1 zone defense. You expect to give up a couple of dunks in the defense. You always tell your kids not to worry about dunks. Two points is always better than three. But you don't expect to give up nine or ten dunks. They got no lobs in the first half. But in the second half, they just had it down. You can do that when you have guards that can see (over the zone)."

West Virginia begins the second session of West division round robin play with a trip to Pitt on Wednesday.

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