The Orange did not play their best basketball last night but did just enough to squeak by UConn, 72-67.
The Huskies are a physically imposing team. They are by far the most athletic team Syracuse has faced all year. It really is amazing how poorly the Huskies are playing with that type of talent. Sure, their outside shooting is very bad but they should be able to use their strength and speed to beat down most opponents.
Their athleticism is what kept them in the game in the beginning. They had 10 points off dunks in the first half and had seven steals.
Turnovers have been a big issue for the Orange all year and it got no better last night. Syracuse turned it over 14 times in the first half and were very lucky to go into halftime with a 37-30 lead.
I hate to use the word intangibles so instead I'll say Andy Rautins had a lot of stats that we don't keep track of. He drew charges, stopped penetration and his intensity is contagious (with the evolution of stats in 20 years we'll look back and be amazed that Rautins had 8 intensities a game). Coming out of the half the defense turned it up and it led to a 13-4 run to give Syracuse a 50-34 lead with under 14 minutes remaining. But shortly thereafter, Rautins picked up his fourth foul and had to take a seat. UConn went on a 14-2 run to cut it to four.
Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson really turned it on in the second half. In the first they combined for just 10 points but in the second they scored 23. Walker hit numerous floaters in the lane and Dyson had a couple three-pointers. Aside from the guard play it was offensive rebounds that kept the Huskies in the game. They had 12 offensive boards in the second half that led to 11 points. All the ball's were bouncing Connecticut's way - until the final minute.
Syracuse had the ball with 1:07 left and the game tied at 65. Rautins missed a three from the corner but Jackson got the offensive board (one of just three in the second half) with 44 seconds remaining on the clock. He got the ball to Scoop Jardine who inexplicably drove to the lane and was blocked. I usually don't get personal in these entries but I was screaming as he drove to the lane, "What are you doing! You hold the ball! You hold the ball!" I repeated that over and over again until I finally realized Boeheim had called a timeout and the Orange maintained possession. They hit seven of eight free throws to seal the win.
-The win breaks a six-game regular season losing streak to the Huskies.
-UConn falls to 0-6 on the road.
-Syracuse, a 65 percent free throw shooting team hit 23 of 28.