Sunday, February 27, 2011

March 5th 2011: Rick Jackson Night

Ladies and gentleman, mark your calendars. Rick Jackson is the lone senior on the Syracuse Orangemen basketball team. So, in honor of the final home game of the season, the Carrier Dome will be hosting Rick Jackson Night starting at 4:ooPM on March 5th, when Syracuse plays host to the DePaul Blue Demons.

Jackson came to Syracuse in 2007 in a big four man recruiting class. Rick Jackson was joined as a freshmen with Donte Greene out of Towson, MD, Jonny Flynn out of Niagara Falls, NY and Scoop Jardine out of Rick Jackson's hometown of Philadelphia, PA where both players attended St. John Neuman High School.

After Scoop Jardine's freshman season it was revealed that he was playing with a stress fracture and it would require surgery. This earned Jardine a medical redshirt, and saved him a year of eligibility. Scoop Jardine sat out the entire 2008-09 season.

Donte Greene came to Syracuse as an extremely highly touted recruit out of Towson Catholic High School and was a McDonald's All-American. Donte Greene averaged 17.7 points per game during his freshman year at Syracuse and also picked up 7.2 rebounds per contest. Despite shooting 34.5% from three-point range, Greene relied heavily on the outside shot and spent most of the season around the perimeter.

In spite of the team's shortcomings (did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament and lost to Massachusetts in the 2nd round of the NIT in the Carrier Dome), Donte Greene declared for the NBA draft following his freshman season and was taken 28th overall by the Memphis Grizzlies. He was traded that night to the Houston Rockets before being dealt to the Sacramento Kings, where he currently plays.

Jonny Flynn played two seasons at Syracuse (2007-08 and 2008-09) before declaring for the NBA Draft and being taken 6th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Jonny Flynn's draft stock skyrocketed following Syracuse's epic 6-overtime game against UCONN in the Big East Tournament, a game that saw Flynn play 67 of 70 minutes and finish with 34 points (16/16 from the foul line). Many believe that if not for the six overtime classic, it is very likely that Flynn would have returned for his junior season.

This leaves just Rick Jackson as the lone player from the 2007 recruiting class to be honored Saturday before tip off against DePaul.

Rick Jackson is one of those special players who significantly improved each season for Jim Boeheim's Syracuse Orangemen. During Jackson's freshman season he appeared in all 35 games without making a single start. Jackson shot 52.6% from the field while averaging 3.7 points and 3 rebounds per game while backing up Arinze Onuaku and Kristof Ogenaet. Jackson also blocked 44 shots that season.

Jackson's sophomore season began with him assuming a key role off the bench. Rick's improved footwork from his freshman to sophomore season was extremely noticeable and it showed on the floor. Rick increased his playing time from 12.9 to 22.1 minutes per game and doubled his scoring and rebounding to 8.3 points and 5.8 boards per game, earning a few starts along the way in the process. Jackson blocked 76 shots his second season, 22 more than the previous year. He also nearly doubled his assists and steals, going from 19 assists and 15 steals to 36 helpers and 34 steals.

Jackson's improvement from his sophomore season to his junior season was another big step in his development. This year, seniors Arinze Onuaku and Andy Rautins helped guide the Cuse to a #1 ranking in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Polls. Rick Jackson stepped up his own game, averaging 9.7 points and 7 rebounds per game while shooting 59.1% from the field. Jackson's defense also improved, blocking 69 shots and stealing 36 balls while dishing 60 assists inside (24 more than his previous season).

This season's version of Rick Jackson is a slimmer, stronger, and more determined Rick Jackson than Syracuse fan's have ever seen. Jackson has put this Syracuse squad on his back for most of the season, leading the Cuse to as high as a #3 national ranking prior to the mid-season slide. Through it all, Rick Jackson has played more minutes than ever before.

Rick has seventeen double-doubles in thirty games this season. He had seven double-doubles his first three seasons combined on the Hill. Furthermore, Rick Jackson is currently leading the Big East in rebounds per game with 10.8. The next nearest Big East conference player is Oriakhi on Connecticut who averages 8.7.

Jackson also leads the Big East in field goal percentage and blocked shots. Jackson is making 59.1% of his shots from the floor, 4.2% higher than Terrence Jennings of Louisville who is second and has blocked 73 shots this season, eight more than John Flowers of West Virginia who has played in three less games. Rick is also 4th in the Big East in minutes played with 35.4 minutes on average and is 20th overall in scoring with 13.1 points per game.

Rick is the main reason for Syracuse's 18-0 start out of the gates, and his steady play on both offense and defense has certainly carried the Orangemen to their 24-6 (11-6 Big East) record. He's 2nd on the team in scoring and is one of the most reliable players on the floor.

When Rick Jackson takes the floor for the final time inside the Carrier Dome on Saturday, he will be able to look back on a solid four year career at Syracuse, however his time in Orange will not be over. There is still the Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden and then there's the NCAA Tournament.

With so many big games potentially remaining in Rick Jackson's collegient career, we won't be saying good bye to the big man just yet.

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Scoop Jardine Leads Syracuse Past Georgetown

The Scoop Jardine that many of us had grown accustomed to watching last season finally reappeared in a Syracuse uniform after disappearing for much of January and February. Playing in front of 20,276 fans in the Verizon Center (the most ever for a Georgetown game), Scoop Jardine led the Orangemen to a 58-51 victory with 17 points and 7 assists, while turning the ball over just once in 34 minutes on the floor, spoiling "senior day" for the Georgetown seniors.

The Orangemen pushed their first half lead from 3 points to 10 points at the break behind unbelievable play from sophomore James Southerland. Southerland scored seven of Syracuse's final nine points of the half. James hadn't scored a single point since February 5th at South Florida, when he chipped in 2 points in one minute.

Southerland received 21 minutes, more than he's played in the last eight games combined (three of which he did not play a single minute), largely due to the fact C.J. Fair was limited to just 11 minutes of action. Fair, who has played more than 25 minutes in each of the last six games, rolled his ankle in first half action against Villanova on Monday night. Although he did return to the game and go on to play 30 minutes that night, it was very clear that Fair was still feeling the effects of that injury. C.J. Fair finished with 4 rebounds and zero points.

This was the first time this season that C.J. Fair appeared in a game and did not score a single point. Southerland, who scored 9 points in the first half, did not score in the second half.

Considering C.J. Fair's lack of availability, the Orangemen's defense looked in control much of the game, minus Georgetown's surge when they went on a 20-6 run to take their first lead of the game since 2-0. With the score 45-43 with ten minutes remaining in the game, Scoop Jardine played his best minutes down the stretch of any game in literally weeks, making clutch shots and knocking down a HUGE 3-pointer shot with 4:53 remaining to put Syracuse back up six points.

Rick Jackson, who will be playing in his final game in the Carrier Dome this coming Saturday, finished with 12 points on 5 of 7 shooting from the field and grabbed 7 rebounds. Fab Melo played his first significant minutes since missing practice prior to the Louisville game on February 12th. Melo played 7 minutes (more than his previous five games combined) and finished with 2 points and 1 rebound.

Kris Joseph was limited to just 4 points on 2 of 7 shooting in 31 minutes and pulled down only 2 rebounds. This was his lowest offensive output since scoring 2 points in 10 minutes against Cincinnati before leaving with a head injury in the first half.

The Syracuse Orangemen as a unit are peaking at exactly the right time of the year. After suffering four straight losses and losing six of eight games between January 17th and February 12th, Jim Boeheim's Orangemen have won 4 straight games. The last two victories coming in Philadelphia against #14/15 Villanova and in Washington D.C. against #11 Georgetown.

Next up on the schedule is Rick Jackson Night, the final home game of the season against the 7-21 (1-15 in Big East) DePaul Blue Demons on Saturday March 5th at 4:00PM. It's Senior Day in the Carrier Dome, and the Orangemen faithful will be paying homage to their lone upperclassman, Rick Jackson.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

The 2011 Syracuse Football Schedule is Here!

For those of you still basking in the enjoyment and excitement of the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium (and as you can tell by this picture, Nancy Cantor is certainly still celebrating), it's time to dust off your trusty 44 jersey, grab your helmets and get ready for the 2011 Syracuse Football schedule which was released today!!

As promised, Daryl Gross will be delivering the Syracuse Orangemen Football team he built from scratch to the red carpets of Los Angeles to take on the USC Trojans. The game will be played on September 17th at the LA Coliseum.

Syracuse will also be taking the show to Bourbon Street to take on Tulane on October 8th. If you like traveling for Syracuse Football games, this is definitely the non-conference schedule of your dreams (and your liver's nightmares).

Doug Marrone's Syracuse Orangemen have even been invited to play a college football game on a FRIDAY NIGHT. November 11th against the University of South Florida in the Carrier Dome.

The Complete 2011 Syracuse Orangemen Football Schedule:

Sept 3rd - Carrier Dome - Wake Forest
Sept 10th - Carrier Dome - Rhode Island
Sept 17th - LA Coliseum - at USC
Sept 24th - Carrier Dome - Toledo
Oct 1st - Carrier Dome - Rutgers
Oct 8th - SuperDome - at Tulane
Oct 22nd - Carrier Dome - West Virginia
Oct 29th - Cardinal Stadium - at Louisville
Nov 5th - Rentschler Field - at Connecticut (Coach P Reunion)
Nov 11th - Carrier Dome - South Florida - 8PM ESPN2
Nov 26th - Carrier Dome - Cincinnati
Dec 3rd - Heinz Field - at Pittsburgh (abc/espn/espn2)

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Orangemen and Hoyas: Round II

It's that time of year again. Syracuse and Georgetown. The two teams faced off back on February 9th in the Carrier Dome, a game that Georgetown won. The first time the Hoyas knocked off the Orangemen in Syracuse since 2002. The sun shines even on a dogs ass some days.

The Cuse were seemingly in control that day as the clock wound down, with Syracuse up 53-49 with 5:37 left in the game. Unfortunately down the stretch the then #13 Orangemen only scored 3 more points the rest of the game (all from the foul line) and the #11 Hoyas kept scoring (like most college teams do when the game is 40 minutes long) and as Syracuse's mistakes and missed shots mounted, the end result culminated in a 64-56 victory for the road team.

On that day senior guard Chris Wright had 6 points and 9 assists for the Hoyas on 2 for 8 shooting from the floor. Wright, who averages 13.1 points and 5.4 assists per contest and scored a season high 26 points in South Florida on February 19th, will not be available for the #11 ranked Hoyas Saturday afternoon. Chris Wright suffered a broken left hand on Wednesday against Cincinnati and underwent surgery on Thursday.

Speaking of the game against Cincinnati, the Bearcats went into the Verizon Center and absolutely stunned the Georgetown faithful who assembled at Syracuse's home away from home in Washington D.C. The Bearcats upset the Hoyas 58-46 on Syracuse's 3rd home court, in front of 13,241 fans. No word on whether or not Georgetown restricted ticket sales to Cincinnati fans.

Which brings me to my next point. The Georgetown Hoyas are absolutely terrified of the Syracuse Orangemen. They are so petrified of the Syracuse Orangemen's rabid fan base that they have gone WELL out of their way to not sell any tickets to Syracuse fans.

Frankly, I don't blame them. Next year they will probably wise up and not sell tickets to Cincinnati Bearcat fans either. In fact, any team that beats them at home will probably lose the "privilege" of purchasing tickets to a Georgetown game in the Verizon Center. I guess the Board of Trustees who came up with this hair brained scheme never heard of Stubhub or Craigslist or Ebay?

Additionally, I read online that there will be some 400 level tickets sold for $25 with no student ID required. So I guess that whole "we're not selling tickets to Syracuse fans" plan didn't work out so well? Guess there weren't as many Georgetown fans as the Hoya's banked on when they devised this little scheme of theirs.

As for Syracuse, the Orangemen are coming off a big win in Philadelphia, PA on Monday night against the #14/15 Villanova Wildcats behind a 20 point performance from our own enigmatic point guard Scoop Jardine, a Philadelphia native. Rick Jackson, Scoop Jardine's high school teammate (which I am sure you didn't know), chipped in 18 points 5 rebounds and 4 blocks playing in his final game in his hometown in a Syracuse uniform.

The Orangemen, who don't restrict ticket sales to any fan base, will roll into the Verizon Center on a three game winning streak. A win on Saturday over the Hated Hoyas will go a long way towards securing a top four seed in the Big East Tournament on Syracuse's other home floor, Madison Square Garden.

With so many home courts and so much home court advantage it's almost hard to keep track of them all! Thankfully Georgetown's athletic department administrators are there to keep our houses in order. The Verizon Center may very well not be one of our home floors if they are going this far to keep our beloved fans out.

But I will say this. The Orange clad fans who do make it into the building on Saturday afternoon are going to be revved up and fired up in a way that Georgetown fans may not be ready for. Nothing lights a fire under a fan base like being told that the host school does not want you there.

Hopefully there are so many "Let's Go Orange" chants emanating from the crowd that the Hoyas fans that Georgetown does manage to find have nightmares and auditory hallucinations for a month (which will be longer than I expect Georgetown's season to last).

Be sure to tune into CBS at 12:00PM to catch all the action as the #17/20 Syracuse Orangemen take on the #11 Georgetown Hoyas. As always, be sure to check back in with The Cuse Connection following the game for a complete recap and analysis of the action.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Carmelo Anthony Era Begins

All the drama is over. The what ifs, the what have you's. The back room wheeling and dealing. The secret meetings and denied rumors. It's all over. Carmelo Anthony is officially a New York Knickerbocker.

We at The Cuse Connection are not going to mull over what the Knicks had to give up and what they got back in addition to Anthony, as that is for other blog's and newspapers to do. I'm sure by now you have read them all, if you so desired.

When you are a little kid, you dream of your favorite college players being drafted by your favorite pro team. I remember being 12 years old and watching the Knicks draft John Wallace. I was real excited. Syracuse had just come off a magical run to the national championship game and now the star of the show was going to be playing for my favorite NBA team.

Since I grew up 30 minutes from NYC, it was a very big deal to have John Wallace in the Garden. Like all kids my age, I was a die hard Knicks fan.

I got numerous John Wallace rookie cards and watched each game waiting for when Wallace would make it on the floor. After that first year he was traded, and although found his way back onto the Knicks roster a few years later, John Wallace could never replicate the numbers he put up in college.

One of the few fond memories of John Wallace in a Knicks uniform was when the Knicks and Heat threw down in the 1997 NBA playoffs and Charlie Ward got flipped head over heels and John Wallace was the first Knick to come to his aid and tackle P.J. Brown.

Fast-forward to today and fourteen years have gone by. The Knicks have been a walking punchline in NYC since James Dolan's family purchased the team leaving him in charge, and the Knicks have posted nine straight losing seasons in a row under his management.

My personal affection for the NY Knickerbockers has certainly been diminished over this past decade or so, however Carmelo Anthony donning the Orange and Blue inside Madison Square Garden might just be the thing this former Knicks fan needs to turn this once big fan's affections around!

It's hard to not be excited by this trade if you live in New York and are a huge Cuse fan. After watching some Carmelo clips from his unreal 2003 Syracuse Orangemen campaign, I got even more excited. Finally, a star player from Syracuse University was coming to play in the Garden for the Knicks, and this time, he's an established star.

We've watched Carmelo bring a NCAA title to a city that needed one cement their legacy as a top basketball school in Syracuse, NY. Now will Carmelo be able to bring a championship to New York City, championship-less since 1972?

After so many close calls during the 90s, wouldn't that be something?

Georgetown's poster boy Patrick Ewing couldn't get it done. Maybe Syracuse University's own will be the man to deliver a championship to the City of New York?

We'll find out, starting tonight.

Syracuse Defeats Villanova in Philadelphia

On Monday night the #17/20 Syracuse Orangemen basketball team overcame the #14/15 Villanova Wildcats, a trio of incompetent officials and both Corey's for a tremendous 69-64 Big East victory.

Rick Jackson, playing his final game in Philadelphia in a Syracuse uniform, led the Cuse with 18 points 5 rebounds and 4 blocks. His high school teammate Scoop Jardine had one of his better shooting performances in recent memory, going 7 of 11 from the field (2 of 3 from 3-point range) to finish with a team high 20 points. Scoop also committed 5 turnovers, however tried to overcome that mark with 6 assists.

In one of the worst officiating displays of the season, the Orangemen were whistled for two lane violations on back to back free throw misses by Isaiah Armwood. As if that wasn't bizarre enough, the seemingly most mild mannered player on the SU basketball team, Baye Moussa Keita, was called for a technical foul after merely looking confused by the official's shockingly overzealous call.

The Orangemen's first half lead went from seven points to just two points with just 9 seconds coming off the game clock.

Another scary moment came in the first half when C.J. Fair rolled his ankle about 6 minutes into the game. Fair was helped off the floor and went directly into the locker room. Fans feared he may have re-injured the same ankle which kept him out of three games in late December. Thankfully, Fair returned to the court less than four minutes later. He went on to play 30 minutes however he did not record a single rebound, the first time that's happened since January 8th in Seton Hall when he was limited to just 8 minutes of action.

In the second half, Scoop Jardine made some big plays down the stretch and a couple of successful trips to the foul line by Dion Waiters and Rick Jackson in the games final seconds sealed the victory for the Orangemen.

The win for Syracuse was their 6th win of the season over a ranked opponent. Only Texas has as many wins over ranked squads as the Cuse. It also guarantees the Orangemen a winning conference record this season as they improve to 10-6 in Big East play, 23-6 overall.

There are just two games remaining on Syracuse's schedule, a trip to Georgetown on Saturday followed by a full week of rest before hosting DePaul in the regular season finale. And then the fun begins. A trip down to New York City to play in the Big East tournament.

The top 8 teams in the Big East get a 1 game bye, and the top 4 teams receive a double-bye. A win against Georgetown on Saturday will go a long way towards helping Syracuse earn that double-bye.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Syracuse and Villanova: We Meet Again

It's rematch time. Back on January 22nd Syracuse, then ranked #3 in the nation and sporting an 18-1 record hosted then #7 Villanova who came into the Dome with a 16-2 overall record. Syracuse would suffer their 2nd straight loss that afternoon, falling 83-72 in front of 33,736 fans, including yours truly.

Fast forward to today, Syracuse is currently ranked #17/20 in the nation and Villanova is clinging to a #14/15 spot in the polls (note: the new rankings have yet to be released at the time of this publication). Nova is coming off a nail biting victory at Depaul on Saturday, where we saw the Wildcats and Blue Demons head to overtime before Villanova pulled out a 77-75 victory over the Big East doormat. The Wildcats are currently 21-6 on the year, 9-5 in Big East play.

Syracuse is coming off an equally frustrating win against another one of the weaker Big East opponents. The Orangemen survived going to overtime with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (who entered the Dome with a 4-9 Big East conference record) and emerged victorious 84-80 behind strong games by Kris Joseph, Rick Jackson and C.J. Fair.

The last time these two teams met James Southerland and Dion Waiters received extended minutes, minutes that we have seen go to C.J. Fair recently. And he has not disappointed. Fair scored 17 points and pulled down 8 rebounds against Rutgers on Saturday while playing 37 of a possible 45 minutes. Fair is averaging 12 points and 6.3 rebounds per game over his last four contests.

For the Wildcats, senior guard Corey Stokes has sat out the last three games with a big toe injury. Stokes is averaging 14.6 points per game and shoots 41.5% from behind the 3-point line. With Syracuse looking extremely vulnerable from 3-point range lately, it would be a tremendous loss for Nova to play without Stokes tonight at the Pavilion.

This is a tremendous game for the Big East standings as well as the seeding for the Big East tournament in Madison Square Garden. Syracuse has three games remaining and are currently in a log jam of teams jockeying for seeds 3 and 4 in the Big East. There are four Big East teams with 9 wins (Nova, Louisville, St. Johns and Syracuse) and three with 8 wins (Cincinnati, Connecticut and West Virginia). Throw in Notre Dame at 10-4 and Georgetown at 10-5 and the top tier of the Big East standings are still very much in reach for both Nova and Cuse, who have both struggled lately.

Be sure to check back in with The Cuse Connection following the game for complete recap and analysis from the game. Also be sure to follow us on twitter @CuseConnection for live, in game reaction and commentary throughout the course of the game. Tonight's game is at 7:00PM and will be broadcast live on ESPN.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Syracuse Overcomes Late Surge by Rutgers, Wins 84-80 in Overtime

With four games remaining in the Syracuse Orangemen regular season schedule, the most important thing for the Cuse to do is protect their home court down the stretch. That was in danger on Saturday afternoon as Syracuse hosted Rutgers in the Carrier Dome.

Tied 70-70 after regulation, you could not blamed if you had some concern heading into Overtime. Syracuse, who trailed 44-43 at halftime, was up 64-56 with 6:33 remaining in the ball game. From there, it was turnover after turnover and missed 3-pointer after missed 3-pointer for the Orangemen. We had all seen this script before.

Something about the last four or so minutes of each half is like kryptonite to Syracuse's offensive game plan. By the time there was 3:15 left on the game clock, Mike Poole knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Scarlet Knights a 66-64 lead to cap a 10-0 run by Rutgers.

C.J. Fair would bang home another layup with 2:19 left in the game to tie the score at 66, however Syracuse would not make another field goal the rest of the way. Rick Jackson had a couple opportunities to give the Orangemen the lead in the waning seconds of regulation, however he went 1/2 from the foul line to tie the score at 70 with 7 seconds left on the clock.

A missed James Beatty 3-point attempt as the clock expired and the 21-6 Orangemen were heading to overtime on their home court against the 13-12 Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

In overtime Kris Joseph knocked down a huge 3-pointer (he was 3 of 5 from behind the arc) that helped push Syracuse's lead to 4 points with just under three minutes remaining in the extra session. Rutgers answered back with a 3-pointer of their own (Scarlet Knights shot 9 of 23 from 3-point range, 39.1%), to cut the lead back to 1 point.

The Orangemen would make their foul shots down the stretch (except for Scoop Jardine who went 0-2 from the line with SU up by 4 with 44 seconds left) and were able to hold on for an 84-80 win.

Kris Joseph lead all scorers with 21 points and 8 rebounds, and Rick Jackson logged another double-double for the Cuse. Jackson finished with 18 points and 12 boards along with a ridiculous seven blocks, 2 assists and 2 steals.

C.J. Fair continued his hot play of late, playing 37 minutes and finishing with 17 points behind 6 of 8 shooting from the floor (5 of 6 from the foul line). Fair also grabbed 8 rebounds. Fab Melo played just 1 minute, picking up a foul within seconds of stepping on the floor, and did not see any action after that. It was his first action since sitting out the last two games due to missing practice following the loss to Georgetown on February 9th. Dion Waiters was also limited to 2 minutes of action.

Scoop Jardine, who broke out for 20 points against Louisville, had his second straight 9 point game, and shot 4 of 10 from the field. He was a very unpleasant 0-3 from the foul line, however. Brandon Triche, who has scored 20+ points his previous two games, finished with 17 points on 3 of 15 shooting from the floor.

Triche started out hot from the field, making his first two three point attempts, however he missed his next eight shots from beyond the arc. He was a perfect 9 for 9 from the foul line. He also pulled down 6 rebounds and had 4 assists for the Cuse.

Syracuse will travel to Philadelphia, PA on Monday (the home of Rick Jackson, Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters) to take on the now #14/15 Villanova Wildcats at 7PM on ESPN's Big Monday. Villanova also survived an overtime scare Saturday, defeating Big East basement Depaul 77-75 on the road.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Syracuse and Rutgers Set to Tangle in Carrier Dome

The Syracuse Orangemen, looking to string together a few wins down the stretch of the Big East regular season, will play host to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Saturday afternoon at 4PM on MSG.

The Scarlet Knights enter the Carrier Dome sporting a very unimpressive 13-12 overall record and an equally disappointing conference record of 4-9. Rutgers has lost 5 of their last 6 Big East games, however the lone win was a huge upset victory over the Villanova Wildcats thanks to a 4-point play as time expired in the RAC on February 9th.

Rutgers average margin of defeat in the Big East Conference is a respectable 8.9 points, however they have played some close games against some of the top teams. The Scarlet Knights lost to Pittsburgh by a mere 3 points at home on January 29th and lost to St Johns on the road by 2 points at Carnesecca Arena on a Justin Brownlee layup with 4 seconds left. They also lost by 7 at Notre Dame and lost by 5 at home to Seton Hall.

With that in mind, Rutgers won't be a complete pushover for the Orangemen, who have struggled against weaker competition this year, particularly at home. Aside from the home blowout against Seton Hall, Syracuse has also narrowly defeated William & Mary by 3 points (W&M is 7-20 this season) and beat NC State by 6 points (Wolfpack are 4-7 this year in a weak ACC). Syracuse can not look past Rutgers on Saturday. It will take a complete 40 minute effort to earn the win.

Leading the Scarlet Knights in scoring this season is Jonathan Mitchell (6'7" 225 pounds) who averages 14.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. The senior out of Mount Vernon, NY has been lighting up the scoreboard the past 4 games, scoring over 20 points in each contest. His season high 25 points came in the win against Nova and is coming off a 24 point effort in the 5 point loss to Seton Hall on February 12th. In the last eight Big East games Mitchell is averaging 20 points per game.

Dane Miller (6'7" 215 pounds) and Gilvydas Biruta (6'8" 230 pounds) both average over 9 points per game for the Knights. Miller, a sophomore out of Henrietta, NY also averages 5.7 rebounds per game to go along with 9.3 points per affair. Miller is coming off a 0 point game against Seton Hall where he shot 0-4 from the floor, however he scored 12 points against Villanova on February 9th.

Gilvydas Biruta is a freshman hailing from Lithuania. In addition to his 9 points per game he also pulls down 5.2 boards per game. He had been struggling the past month or so, however he broke out for 18 points against Seton Hall on February 12th.

Clearly there's a lot of size on this Rutgers roster. Syracuse needs to be prepared to play a physical game on Saturday and not merely sleepwalk through the first half like they can be prone to.

Thankfully for the Orangemen, Brandon Triche has been stepping up lately and establishing himself as the go-to-guard for the Syracuse offense, alleviating some of the dependency on Rick Jackson. Additionally, Scoop Jardine finally got himself going last Saturday in Louisville, scoring 12 first half points on his way to a 20 point afternoon.

Now if we could only get Scoop's scoring to coincide with a big Syracuse victory we'd be in business. Tip off on Saturday is at 4PM and the game will be televised live on MSG. Be sure to check back in with The Cuse Connection following the game for a complete recap and analysis from all the action in the Carrier Dome. We will also be tweeting live emotions at @CuseConnection, so if you are into that sort of thing, be sure to give us a follow.

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Syracuse Basketball: We're Back Online

I have to apologize for the lack of updates from The Cuse Connection the past week or so. Haven't had the time necessary to dedicate to covering the Syracuse Orangemen but I'm ready to get back into the thick of things. Time to dust off the cobwebs and get back to work.

During my absence, the Syracuse Orangemen have split two games and seen quite the display from head coach Jim Boeheim during the post game news conference of the victory over West Virginia on Valentines Day.

The loss came on a Saturday afternoon at 12 o'clock in the KFC Yum Center, a 73-69 defeat at the hands of Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals. Syracuse had a few things going against them on this day. For starters, the Orangemen always come out FLAT during noon tip offs. I don't know what it is, maybe the team doesn't go to bed early enough. Whatever the reason, Syracuse is always sluggish for the 12PM tip. Couple that with Rick Pitino's recent success against Jim Boeheim (although to be fair Jim used to own Rick Pitino) and Louisville's unbelievable efficient 3-point shooting barrage and you had the recipe for disaster.

Syracuse was holding their own on the road in Louisville, entertaining a 3 point lead at the under 4 minute official time out in the first half (26-23). Then the Cardinals started raining three pointers. Preston Knowles, Kyle Kuric, Preston Knowles, Kyle Kuric. It felt like a horror film. When the dust settled Louisville was up 40-30 at the break.

The three pointers continued to fall for Louisville as they opened up a 57-37 2nd half lead with 15:30 to go in the ball game. That's when Brandon Triche decided enough was enough. The defense started clamping down for the Cuse and Triche started nailing some 3-pointers of his own to narrow the deficit. Even Scoop Jardine knocked down a 3-point shot. By the time the under 4 time out came in the 2nd half, the Louisville Cardinals were clinging to a 5 point lead.

Unfortunately for Syracuse they didn't have enough in the tank and the game wasn't a few minutes longer, and the Orangemen dropped yet another Big East game to Rick Pitino. Final score Syracuse 69 Louisville 73. Brandon Triche lead the Orangemen with 21 points and Scoop Jardine finally showed some signs of life, finishing with 20 points on 8 of 15 shooting, 4 of 8 from 3-point range. C.J. Fair also put together a solid game, playing 33 minutes and finishing with 11 points and 7 rebounds on 4 of 6 shooting. Fair also made 2 steals.

A couple days later and Syracuse was right back out on the floor, this time at home for a Valentines Day showdown against the West Virginia Mountaineers. Once again, it was Brandon Triche who lead the way for the Orangemen, establishing himself as the most consistent scoring threat and shooter for the Cuse.

Triche finished with 20 points on 7 of 12 shooting and C.J. Fair added 8 points and 5 rebounds in 37 minutes of action. Kris Joseph also contributed 16 points on 5 of 10 shooting from the floor.

The most interesting storyline developing for the Orangemen was the lack of Fab Melo on the floor. Not the usual, "Oh Fab only played 3 minutes tonight." Fab did not start and did not make an appearance in either the Louisville nor the WVU game. Coach Boeheim said Fab Melo missed practice without letting the coaching staff know, and was done playing for now. Melo said he was dealing with some family issues back home in his native Brazil. Either way we are all waiting to see how this plays out.

Back to the game, Syracuse controlled much of the action, however Casey Mitchell kept the Mountaineers in the game shooting an unbelievable 7 of 12 from behind the three point line. Mitchell had a game high 23 points, and every time Syracuse started to make a run and pull away, Casey Mitchell was right there answering back with a 3-pointer and keeping his team in the game.

In the end, Brandon Triche and C.J. Fair were able to keep pacing the Orangemen offense and Syracuse held on for a big 63-52 Big East victory over the Mountaineers to improve their record to 21-6 overall, 8-6 in the Big East.

Coming up next for the Orangemen, who are now ranked #17 in the AP Top 25 and #20 in the ESPN/USA Today Poll, is Rutgers on Saturday afternoon at 4PM in the Carrier Dome, followed by a trip to Philadelphia to take on the Villanova Wildcats. Two very big games for the Cuse.

photo courtesy of

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Orangemen Empty Down the Stretch, Fall to Georgetown

It all started out so promising. The Orangemen defense held Georgetown to just 29 first half points and Syracuse had the lead at the break by two points. The Cuse continued to battle defensively in the second half and clung to a 4 point lead with 6:31 left in the ball game (53-49). Syracuse seemed to have the momentum, and with the hometown fans behind them, we hoped that Syracuse would keep fighting and gut out this victory against our arch-nemisis.

From there, the Orangemen's collective basketball intelligence and talent decided to pack it in and call it a night. Syracuse would not make another shot from the field for the rest of the game. Unfortunately, Georgetown scored 15 points in that span and pulled away for a 64-56 Big East victory in front of 26,904 in the Carrier Dome. The Cuse were outscored 15-3 in the final 6 minutes and change to hand Georgetown the victory.

Rick Jackson was unfortunately victimized by Nate Lubick and Julian Vaughn, who both took two of the biggest flops in Syracuse-Georgetown history to draw fouls on Rick Jackson. To add insult to injury, with 14:40 left to play Jackson was called for an off the ball foul in the offensive zone for his 4th foul of the game and earned himself a seat on the bench for much of the remainder of the game.

Big East officials chose this game as the first game all season for Rick Jackson to be in foul trouble, with three highly questionable calls all on the offensive end of the court. Rick Jackson barely brushed up against his man to call that 4th foul while he was boxing out and establishing position in the middle of the paint. That essentially took him out for the remainder of the game and that call was an absolute DISGRACE.

However the Orangemen would keep chopping at Georgetown and did not quit once Jackson took his 4th foul. Syracuse managed to build a four point lead after being down 3 points when Rick Jackson exited the game with great effort from C.J. Fair, Baye Moussa Keita and Kris Joseph. But when the game mattered down the stretch, the Orangemen would come up empty on nearly every possession.

Rick Jackson finished the night with 4 points on 1 of 6 shooting and 8 rebounds (7 in the first half). He also blocked 3 shots and had 1 steal in addition to his 4 fouls. There were a few times in the first half Rick Jackson streaked through the paint with a step on his man, although the guards failed to find him.

At one point with under 4 minutes to go in the 1st half Jackson ran alone through the paint and Dion Waiters instead threw the ball around the perimeter to Kris Joseph who ended up taking a charge. Jackson turned to Waiters and emphatically informed him of his availability down low.

Freshman C.J. Fair had another tremendous outing, shooting 6 of 9 from the floor for 12 points and finishing with 5 rebounds and 2 blocks. Baye Moussa Keita pitched in a season high 5 blocks and notched 4 points and 4 rebounds for the Cuse.

Kris Joseph had a seemingly good game, scoring a team high 14 points, but a closer look at his numbers paints a very different picture. Joseph was 4 of 10 from the field overall, and 2 of 7 from 3-point range. Joseph made his first two 3-pointers of the game, so he missed his final 5 shots in a row from beyond the arc.

Furthermore, since he only took 10 shots from the floor, that means he only took 3 shots that weren't 3's in the 40 minutes he played. Two out of three is much better statistics than two out of seven. Perhaps Kris Joseph can stop throwing the ball up from 3 and create some shots for himself that don't result in an offensive charge call (he was called for three charges)? That is what we are missing from Kris Joseph! At least his free throw shooting was acceptable, 4 of 5 from the charity stripe, however his 1 rebound in 40 minutes simply will not get it done for the Orangemen.

The loss drops the #12/13 Syracuse Orangemen to 20-5 on the year, a very respectable mark, and 7-5 in the Big East, not as good. As of right now, Syracuse has lost five of their last seven Big East games and face a match up against Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals on Saturday at 12:00. Georgetown's win improves their record to 19-5 on the year, and 8-4 in Big East play. This is Georgetown's first win in the Carrier Dome since the 2001-02 season.

photo courtesy of

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


If you watched SportsCenter this morning you would have been well aware that #5 Duke are playing #20/21 UNC tonight and that it is the #1 game of the year. There are no other games today. Duke. North Carolina. That's it. 9PM on ESPN. College basketball at it's finest on display.

But there's another game on tonight. Against two higher ranked teams. Between two bitter, bitter rivals in the best basketball conference in the country. No, not the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Big East.

Tonight on ESPN, before the watered down ACC tips off the Big Boys will be taking the court at the Carrier Dome. #12/13 Syracuse Orangemen against the hated #11 Georgetown Hoyas.

College basketball at it's finest.

Syracuse returns home after knocking off the #6/7 Connecticut Huskies and blowing out the South Florida Bulls on the road on the heels of a four game losing streak. Georgetown travels to Upstate New York with a six game winning streak in the Big East after starting 1-4 in Conference play.

Syracuse has seven games remaining on their regular season schedule, five of them against ranked opponents. What better way to kick off the home stretch than kicking the crap out of some Hoyas in front of the hometown crowd?

Leading the Hoyas into Cuse is Austin Freeman (6'3" 227 pounds), a senior out of Mitchellville, MD. Freeman is averaging 18.7 points per game and shoots 45.7% from 3-point range. Freeman has been on fire lately, averaging 22.2 points in his last six contests. If Syracuse's 2-3 zone can slow him down like they did against Kemba Walker, than the Orangemen will greatly increase their chances of victory. When Georgetown lost 3 straight games in early January Freeman was held to 6, 11 and 12 points in those contests.

Also averaging in double figures is Chris Wright (6'1" 208 pounds), another senior who hails from Bowie, MD. Wright is averaging 12.8 points and 5.4 assists per game. After being held scoreless in the January 29th win at Villanova despite playing 32 minutes, Wright bounced back with a 24 point performance against Louisville two days later.

Junior Jason Clark (6'2" 170 pounds) out of Arlington, VA averages 12.5 points per game and shoots 38.8% from 3-point range. Clark is a very streaky player, seemly having one good game followed by one bad game and so on, and so on. Thankfully for the Orangemen, Clark scored 18 points against Providence in the last game after a 2 point effort against Louisville. This tells me that Clark should have another off game tonight.

For the Syracuse Orangemen, who else do we talk about outside of Rick Jackson? The dude is an absolute beast. A menace. He had his 16th double-double of the season on Saturday against USF and scored a season high 21 points. Jackson has improved his season average to 13.5 points per game and 11.5 rebounds per contest to lead the Cuse.

C.J. Fair has been emerging off the bench as a viable option off the bench as well. Against South Florida Fair shot 3 of 5 from the floor for 7 points and added 9 rebounds. He also matched a season high in blocks with three in 27 minutes of action. Fair should continue to play a steady amount of minutes tonight and hopefully he will be able to establish himself inside to help Rick Jackson out on the glass.

Two questions for the Orangemen: 1. Will this be the game Scoop Jardine snaps out of his shooting funk? 2. Will Fab Melo or Baye Moussa Keita make a significant contribution to the game?

Scoop Jardine's shooting troubles have been well documented here the past week or so. Playing a weak opponent like USF did not wake up his jump shot like I had hoped, perhaps playing an arch-rival will wake him up? There's only seven games left in the season, there's no better time than the present to make some shots, even layups!

As for the freshman centers, Fab Melo is averaging just 7.8 minutes and 1.7 points and 1.8 rebounds per Big East game this season. Against USF Melo played 12 minutes and made 2-3 shots from the floor for 4 points and 3 rebounds. Not exactly award winning numbers. Baye Moussa Keita had his best game of the season against Connecticut on February 2nd grabbing 11 boards and 6 steals and scoring 4 points for the Cuse before playing just 6 minutes against USF.

Will either center emerge to play major minutes against Georgetown? Odds are in Keita's favor, he's actually had major contributions this year. However, maybe this is the day Melo will break out of his shell and show the world he "gets it"? In all likelihood Rick Jackson will get a significant number of minutes at center, however there's a chance Baye Moussa Keita can catch a rhythm and play meaningful minutes for Jim Boeheim and the Orangemen.

Tip off tonight is at 7PM on ESPN. Be sure to check back with The Cuse Connection following the game for complete recap and analysis.

photo courtesy of

I Hate Georgetown.

From a very young age I learned two things: 1. Love the Orangemen and 2. Hate the Hoyas.

My parents both attended Syracuse University in the mid-1970s and attended games during the raucous days of the Manley Zoo. In true "How to Grow an Orange" fashion, one of my earliest memories is going to the Big East Tournament waayyyy before tip-off because my Dad wanted to watch warm ups. I learned about the way Manley Field House's last game ended and it was engrained in my brain seemingly from birth.

During the year I always say that my hate for Connecticut runs deeper. That the Georgetown rivalry was more of my parents rivalry than my generation. But then the calendar turns to game day against Georgetown and something in my brain clicks on, and my basic instincts take over.

All of a sudden my hate for UCONN, the NY Rangers, the Boston Red Sox and the National Socialist German Workers' Party recedes, and I become enraged and totally preoccupied with my disgust for all things Georgetown.

Tonight's game is no different from the games we all grew up watching. Syracuse comes in ranked #12/13 in the nation and those despicable meth cookers from Washington D.C. come to the Carrier Dome ranked 11th. It's the 34th time in Big East play that both teams have matched up with national rankings. Syracuse is boasting a 20-4 record while the other team is 18-5 and riding a six game Big East winning streak.

The Orangemen know a thing or two about ending Georgetown streaks. In 2007 the Hoyas came up to Cuse riding an 11-game Big East winning streak and a #10 national ranking. Unranked and possibly out-matched, the Syracuse Orangemen beat the crap out of the visiting team 72-58 before the student section danced on Jim Boeheim Court.

The last time Syracuse and the other guys met up was March 11th, 2010 in the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. With 5:07 left in the game and Syracuse down by 6 points Greg Monroe and Arinze Onuaku collided under the basket and Onuaku collapsed on the floor grabbing his knee.

Arinze missed the remainder of the game, a 91-84 loss, and Syracuse lost it's starting senior center for the rest of the season. If not for that injury who knows what may have happened in that Sweet 16 match up against Butler. One thing I do know, I definitely blame that P.O.S. school for taking out Onuaku and ruining our season.

Let's get some payback tonight!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Orangemen Get Going in Tampa, Knock Off USF 72-49

During a season of unfinished business, Syracuse took care of some business, during a trip to "South" Florida on Saturday afternoon. Behind a season high 21 points from sensational senior Rick Jackson and 14 points from Kris Joseph, the Syracuse Orangemen knocked off South Florida 72-49 in front of 10,051 fans, many of them wearing orange and blue.

Coming off a huge 66-58 victory against the #6/#7 Connecticut Huskies on the heels of a 4 game losing streak, there was some concern that Syracuse could suffer a let down in the warm and sunny central Gulf Coast of Florida.

Thanks to Rick Jackson's monster game (21 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block and 1 foul in 38 minutes on the floor) the game was hardly in doubt. It was Rick Jackson's 16th double-double of the season.

Syracuse's trusty 2-3 zone defense, which awoke from a 2 week long coma in Hartford, CT on Wednesday, continued to roll in Tampa as Syracuse held the USF Bulls to 49 total points and 2 of 13 shooting from beyond the 3-point line (13.3%).

Kris Joseph pitched in 14 points on 4 of 8 shooting from the floor (1-3 from three point range) and grabbed another 7 rebounds and 3 steals. Syracuse continued to struggle with their own 3-point shooting, going 4-15 from 3-point range (26.7%). Scoop Jardine's offensive struggles continued with a 2 of 7 shooting performance from the field (1-4 from 3-point range), however he did dish out 8 assists and is looking more comfortable with the basketball than he did during the 4 game losing streak.

C.J. Fair, seeing increased minutes in response to James Southerland's struggles, matched his season high in rebounds with 9 and scored 7 points on 3 of 5 shooting from the floor. Fair's ability it get into the lane and take high percentage shots is something that the rest of Syracuse's forward crop should be taking note of. It's not necessary to settle for jump shots, especially early in the shot clock. Take it to the hoop!

Some might say that Baye Moussa Keita took a step back on Saturday, however I would beg to differ. Keita had a match up problem against junior Augustus Gilchrist, who is at least 25 pounds heavier than Baye Moussa Keita. Rather than throw Keita to the wolves to get dominated inside, Boeheim opted to go with Rick Jackson in the middle of the zone, and the move paid off.

Keita played just 6 minutes after logging 27 minutes against UCONN, and finished with 3 rebounds and 3 fouls. Fab Melo pitched in 12 minutes for the Orangemen and also grabbed 3 rebounds, however he chipped in 4 points on 2 of 3 shooting as well. Rick Jackson meanwhile owned the paint on both sides of the floor (6 offensive and 6 defensive rebounds) en route to a 21 point night.

With the win, Syracuse notched their 20th win on the season. This is the 33rd time in Jim Boeheim's 35 year coaching career at Syracuse that he has reached the 20 win plateau. Syracuse is now 20-4 on the season and 7-4 in Big East play.

After the game Rick Jackson told reporters "Right now we're playing well. Guys are confident. I think we're all playing how we're supposed to be playing." With the exception of Scoop Jardine's shooting struggles, I think RJ is correct. And now is a great time to get our groove back, as the games on the horizon are not going to be getting any easier.

Syracuse (who just received a #13 ranking in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25) will return home to take on the hated #11 Georgetown Hoyas on Wednesday at 7PM and then travel down to #15 Louisville to take on Rick Pitino's Cardinals at 12:00PM on Saturday. We're all concerned about the early afternoon start time and Pitino's recent success against the Cuse. A win on Wednesday will help improve the Orangemen's confidence and can potentially help propel the Orangemen into the newly opened YUM! Center with a full head of steam.

photo courtesy of

Friday, February 4, 2011

Syracuse Takes Business Trip to "South" Florida

The Syracuse Orangemen, fresh off a big time victory in Hartford against #6/#7 Connecticut, are leaving the ice and snow of north-eastern United States and heading south. Jim Boeheim and his squad will head down to Tampa, Fl where it is currently 79 degrees and expected to be 70 degrees and sunny for tip-off on Saturday at 2PM on SNY.

Compare that with Syracuse, NY, where its expected to be 35 degrees and there's some concern that a few Orangemen athletes will look at this trip to USF (8-15, 2-8 Big East) as more of a vacation and less of a business trip. But this is most definitely a business trip.

When Syracuse got clipped by Seton Hall on their own floor the Pirates were 8-12 overall and 2-6 in Big East play. Not too different from the USF Bulls record, and they will have the comforts of home. Well, not their home. The game will be played at the St. Pete Times Forum, the home of the Tampa Bay Lightening rather than the USF Sun Dome. While the Sun Dome seats over 10,000 fans, the St. Pete Times Forum has a capacity of 20,500 for basketball, almost double. Perhaps that will get a few more Orange-clad fans in the building.

Syracuse will need to maintain the defensive intensity we saw on Wednesday if they want to earn their 20th win of the season on Saturday. Most importantly, the Orangemen will need to see the top of their zone as active as it was against Kemba Walker, when they limited the Huskies leading scorer to a season low 8 points.

South Florida has beaten Providence and DePaul in Big East play, as well as Texas Tech and Auburn during their non conference schedule. The Bulls have only won twice in their last twelve games, however they took then #4 UCONN to overtime on the road back on December 31st. The Huskies won that contest 66-61.

Agustus Gilchrist (6'10" 245 pounds) is the leading scorer for the Bulls, averaging 12.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Gilchrist had a season high 25 points against Louisville and scored 21 points against UCONN in their overtime defeat. He has also pulled down a season high 10 rebounds five times this season, most recently in back to back games against West Virginia and DePaul.

At 6'10" 245 pounds Gilchrist might prove to be a match up problem on the inside for the Orangemen. Baye Moussa Keita may have 1+" on him, however he will be outweighed by nearly 25 pounds. It would be great if Fab Melo could stay in the game and be a force on defense in this one, however I don't know if that will happen. We may see Rick Jackson play increased minutes at center to help slow down Gilchrist, however that will force Syracuse into a smaller line up.

Sophomore Jawanza Poland (6'4" 200 pounds) is averaging 10.7 points per game and is coming off a season high 20 points against Providence on Wednesday. While he doesn't appear to be a threat from 3-point range, he's shooting a mere 25% from behind the arc, that is exactly the recipe for success from beyond the arc that has recently plagued the Orangemen. Poland shoots an average of 37% from the floor, and if Syracuse can be physical with him around the perimeter, hopefully our guards will be able to slow him down.

Last year South Florida had the pleasure of having Dominique Jones run the point and he torched Syracuse for 30 points, albeit in a losing effort. The Orangemen won the game 82-65 in the Carrier Dome and were able to shut down the rest of the team while lighting up the scoreboard on the other end. Hopefully Syracuse can have a similar result this season on the road and get their second straight win after suffering 4 straight conference losses.

This would be a great game for Scoop Jardine to finally rediscover his shooting touch and get his offensive flow back for the final 8 games of the season. If Syracuse wants to be successful in their upcoming run of games against Georgetown, Louisville and West Virginia, then we are going to need some steady offense out of Scoop. And what better time to get going than Saturday against a struggling squad? In the past six games, Scoop has been shooting 3-9, 4-13, 1-8, 4-10, 5-12 and most recently 2-11 from the floor. That's 30.1% over six games from the field. Let's see what we can do about that.

The game will be tipping off at 2:00PM and will be televised on the home of the Big East Network, SNY. Be sure to check back in with The Cuse Connection following the game for complete recap and analysis. Also, be sure to follow @CuseConnection on twitter, where we will be tweeting live reaction to the days events.

photo courtesy of

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Can Someone Buy Moussa Keita a Sandwich?

Baye Moussa Keita was a defensive force Wednesday night inside the XL Center as the #17 Syracuse Orangemen finally found the winning formula at the expense of the Connecticut Huskies.

Keita played a season high 27 minutes (he has previously logged 26 minutes on numerous occasions) as he helped to slow down the #6/#7 ranked team in the nation. Baye Moussa Keita finished with 11 rebounds 6 steals 2 blocks and shot 2 of 4 from the field for 4 points. Baye also handed out 1 assist before fouling out with 3:10 left in the game and Syracuse clinging to a 4 point lead.

Unfortunately for Baye, he made what should have been his 3rd block of the game when he two-hand blocked Alex Oriakhi's take to the rim. At the worst, it could have been called a jump ball, but the officials called a phantom foul and sat Keita down for the remainder of the game.

Compare that with our other freshman center, Fab Melo. Melo finished with 3 minutes and 1 foul. Actually, there isn't much to compare here.

Is Fab Melo still in Syracuse's starting rotation to merely keep up appearances? Fab Melo is averaging 7.4 minutes and 1.7 rebounds per game in Big East play. Keita averages 13.5 minutes and 3.3 rebounds per Big East contest.

Keita has had his poor performances, 0 rebounds in 21 combined minutes from Seton Hall games and 0 rebounds in 6 minutes against Pittsburgh, however that can most likely be attributed to Baye Moussa Keita's thin frame.

Which brings me to my next point.

Can someone Buy Moussa Keita some super sized value meals? If you see him on campus, pick him up a couple pitas or a few Jimmy Johns Sandwiches. Get this guy some large fries and a bag of chips. You will be doing your part to help the SU basketball team.

If we can get Keita's weight up he won't be called for as many fouls under the basket, he's fouled out 5 times this season, and will be an even more effective rebounder in a rough and physical Big East conference. Herb Pope (and Jeff Robinson) essentially owned the glass on Syracuse for two games even though he's 2" shorter than Keita. Possibly it's because he has nearly 20 pounds on him?

Keita has 3 more seasons to develop as a Syracuse big man. With Rakeem Christmas coming to campus next season he will have to compete even harder for minutes in the middle. Additionally, a full season of NCAA basketball will definitely aid in the development of Fab Melo.

If Keita wants to maintain playing serious minutes for Syracuse, he will undoubtedly be in the weight room for much of the off season. Perhaps the SU dining hall circuit can pitch in and load up some extra mashed potatoes and all you can eat cheese burgers on his dining tray when he comes in for lunch?

Every little bit helps.

photo courtesy of

Aaaaand We're Back!

Heading into last night's Big East showdown against the #6/#7 UCONN Huskies Jim Boeheim had never lost 5 straight games as head coach of the Syracuse Orangemen. Thankfully, he still hasn't. Syracuse went into Connecticut and walked out with a much needed 66-58 victory. The Orangemen hadn't won on the road against UCONN since the 1999 season.

Syracuse managed to overcome not scoring a single point in the game's opening 5:31 and managed to take their first halftime lead since January 15th against Cinci when Rick Jackson slipped home a shifty hook shot as time expired on the opening frame, giving SU a 26-25 halftime lead.

In the first half Syracuse's defense of Huskie star Kemba Walker was amazing. Walker was held to just 5 points in the first half. Syracuse had allowed opposing teams to score 40+ points in the first half three straight games heading into last night's contest, however UCONN scored just 25 points in the 1st half. Walker finished the game with a season low 8 points, a job well done by the Orangemen's guards at the top of the 2-3 zone.

Coming out of the halftime intermission, it appeared to be the Brandon Triche show. Triche scored the first 7 points for Syracuse in the first 2:17 out of the gate, and helped push Syracuse's lead to 33-27. As Connecticut mounted a valiant comeback, cutting Syracuse's lead which had ballooned to as many as 9 points down to a mere 1 point with 4:56 left to play, Brandon Triche swished a 3-point jumper from the corner to put the Orangemen back up 4 points and provide a much needed cushion against the #6/#7 team in the nation as Syracuse held on for the win.

Baye Moussa Keita played by far his best game in his very young Orangeman career. Despite fouling out (on an absolutely brutal call late in the game) Keita pulled down 11 rebounds, made a season high 6 steals, scored 4 points and added 2 blocks while playing a season high 27 minutes for the Cuse. Keita was changing shots in the lane, using his long arms to swat pass attempts into the center of the zone, and playing like a man possessed to help Syracuse knock off one of the best teams in the nation and putting an end to the Orangemen's 4 game losing streak.

At the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Fab Melo played a mere 3 minutes and his only statistical achievement in the game was his 1 personal foul.

Rick Jackson recorded his 15th double-double of the season, scoring 13 points and pulling down 13 rebounds to lead the Orangemen. Kris Joseph began the game extremely off, however managed to make a few big plays down the stretch. Joseph, the Orangemen's leading scorer on the season, finished 3 of 11 from the floor for 11 points.

Once again Scoop Jardine's shooting woes continued to mount, as he shot 2 of 11 from the field, however Scoop made his foul shots in the final minutes of the game and grabbed a key rebound as the game clock wound down.

Brandon Triche lead Syracuse in scoring with 16 points, while shooting 2 of 7 from 3-point range. He made his shots when it counted though.

Up next for the Orangemen are the USF Bulls on Saturday at 2PM in Tampa, Fl. The game will be televised live on the home of the Big East Network, SNY. With eight games remaining on the Syracuse schedule, there's plenty of hard work left to do.

After a trip down to Tampa, Syracuse will play Georgetown, Louisville, and West Virginia, with the Louisville match up being played on the road. Syracuse (19-4, 6-4 Big East) can not afford to have a let down against the Bulls, as the schedule will not be easing up for the Cuse any time soon.

photo courtesy of

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Is UCONN Just What the Doctor Ordered?

Four straight losses by an average of 11.75 points per game. Never before have the Orangemen lost five straight games under Jim Boeheim. Tonight, Syracuse will take on the #6/#7 Connecticut Huskies (17-3, 5-3 Big East) at the XL Center in Hartford, CT at 7PM on ESPN.

Maybe this level of competition will finally light a fire under the collective bottoms of the Syracuse Orangemen basketball team?

There's a lot of turmoil surrounding the team right now. Four game losing streak. Getting thumped at home by Seton Hall. Some idiots hiding behind a keyboard who thought they would start a point shaving rumor. Dion Waiters suspension rumors. None of this is going to matter when Syracuse takes the court in Connecticut. All that matters is fighting hard for 40 minutes and walking out with a HUGE conference win.

Just one win can turn around all the bad press, bad vibes, and negative energy circling the program. Who better to record that win against than Jim Calhoun and our old friends at UCONN?

Standing in the Cuse's path back to respectability is superstar Kemba Walker (6'1" 172 pounds). The junior is averaging a team high 24.2 points per game and is one of the most lethal players in the country. Walker's season low is 14 points, which came against Marquette on January 25th, and he registered a season high 31 points twice, most recently against Pittsburgh on the road. Walker is the real deal. Stop Kemba Walker, and we might just be able to stop the UCONN Huskies.

If Syracuse has a snowball's chance in hell at stopping Walker, it's going to have to be from the top of the zone. Unfortunately for Syracuse, the top of the 2-3 zone has been absolutely horrible during this 4 game losing streak. Maybe this kind of match up will help Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche elevate their game to the next level. Or, maybe they will fold and allow Walker to torch them for long 3-pointers and penetrate into the zone and get the easy mid-range jumpers. It's up to Scoop and Triche if Syracuse will be successful tonight.

The only other Huskie averaging in double digits is Alex Oriakhi (6'9" 240 pounds) who is averaging 10.7 points and 9 rebounds per game. Oriakhi had a season high 18 points against Kentucky way back on November 24th and a season high 21 rebounds against Texas on the road on January 8th. The past two games Oriakhi has found himself in foul trouble, however the rate at which fouls have been called against Syracuse versus called FOR Syracuse has been staggering of late, so I'm sure that will not be a factor.

In order for Syracuse to be successful they will need to channel the energy we saw in the zone defense the first 18 games of the season that carried the Cuse through bad shooting performances. If Connecticut scores 40+ first half points, it's safe to say our chances of winning this game are slim. The Orangemen have absolutely got to find a way to limit second chance rebounds and somehow manage to slow down Kemba Walker.

If Syracuse can do that, then we have a chance.