After a closer than expected game against DePaul on Saturday, Syracuse looked to eliminate any doubt early against Providence on Tuesday. Wesley Johnson hit a three on their opening possession and after the Orange took a 9-8 lead less than three minutes into the game they never trailed the rest of the way. Syracuse beat the Friars, 85-68.
In the beginning Providence couldn't get going offensively. They are one of the top scoring offenses in the Big East, averaging over 83 points per game, but it seemed like they were looking to slow the game down. They were basically playing four corners. They had four players well behind the three-point line and just one close to the bucket. They would pass back and forth...and back and forth...and weren't looking to penetrate the zone. It was truly baffling. Finally, Sharaud Curry began to attack from the top of the key and good things happened. Often Curry penetrated and would give up the dribble and jump with the ball causing the zone to collapse on him. He made great decisions while in the air, feeding either the guy in the post or corner perimeter player slashing to the bucket. This resulted in uncontested layups and kept them in the game in the first half. What was once an 11-point lead for the Orange was cut to just three at halftime.
But Syracuse was unstoppable on offense. Actually, I'm not sure if that's true. What is true though, is Providence didn't seem to even attempt to stop Syracuse on offense. How else can you explain Syracuse shooting nearly 58 percent from the field? It wasn't because they were on fire. It's because they got layup after layup. Arinze Onuaku went 10 for 12 for 20 points - all on layups (he missed his two free throws). Kris Joseph had a career-high 23 points on nine of 11 shooting - all except two points coming from layups or free throws. Onuaku also added four blocks and seven rebounds and Joseph had seven rebounds and four steals. I'm not sure what Onuaku's motivation was but for Kris Joseph, it might have been the debut of his very own giant head. If this is what it takes for a player to have a career-game, expect to see more giant heads in the stands as the season progresses.
So what about all-everything Wesley Johnson? With just under 12
minutes remaining in the first half, Jardine threw an ally-oop to
Johnson who was undercut by Brian McKenzie. Johnson's body did nearly a
complete 360 and he landed on his hip. He remained in the game but was
hobbling a bit in the second half. He played just 22 minutes and was
pulled out of the game with 17 minutes remaining.
After the game, Boeheim said Johnson could've gone back in the game if they needed him. But they didn't need him and that's a testament to how good this team is. They can win when their star goes out and when Rautins shoots just two of eight from downtown. It's always a team effort and that is what has propelled them to 22-1, their best start in school history.
-Apparently, with Rautins you have to take the good with the bad. Just over a minute into the game he laid out in the backcourt to steal the ball and knocked it to Brandon Triche who got a layup. But he also had two early turnovers on really lazy and ill-advised passes. These one-handed lefty passes have to stop.
-With Syracuse leading comfortably, Boeheim kept his starters in the game. He played his normal rotation of seven and that was it. What are they getting out of this type of playing time? Shouldn't he give some of those bench players some minutes? I'd like to have seen Mookie Jones get about 5-10 minutes last night after the Orange had built a 20-point lead with about 10 minutes remaining. But maybe I shouldn't guess the coach of a 22-1 team and who has the sixth most wins in NCAA history.