Friday, February 18, 2011

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.

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