MBB : DON’T BACK DOWN: Syracuse rebounds from sluggish Saturday, blows out DePaul
Holding a 16-point lead over DePaul at halftime, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim had one message for his team in the locker room:
Don’t let it happen again.
Thoughts of the near-catastrophic meltdown against South Florid, played five days earlier, were fresh in everyone’s mind: The Orange led by double-figures – 16, in fact – at the half, but a dismal second half allowed the lead to slip down to three with 90 seconds to play. Syracuse scraped past with a five-point win, but doubt lingered over the Orange’s ability to snuff out an opponent.
After Syracuse started the second half Wednesday with turnovers on five of six possessions, the Orange seemed doomed to a repeat performance. Then Andy Rautins hit a three-pointer at the 17:16 mark. Jonny Flynn and Paul Harris added layups.
The rout was on.
Syracuse scored seven points in a span of 39 seconds, swelling the lead back up to 19. The team cruised the rest of the way to a convincing 85-68 win in front of 17,296 Wednesday night at the Carrier Dome.
‘That’s what coach definitely brought up,’ SU point guard Jonny Flynn said. ‘He was telling us that at halftime. Same situation, we were up 16 here and 16 at South Florida. We didn’t want to come out that way, but we did, and we really turned it around quickly.’
It would have been hard to keep up with the strong play of the first half, when Syracuse scored 47 points, shot 50 percent from behind the arc, and had more blocks (six) than turnovers (five). And 16-4 run late in the half helped ensure a cushy lead going into the break. So Boeheim wasn’t surprised to see his team come out slow, as it held a large lead over a visibly overmatched team.
‘In the second half, we came out a little bit like South Florida, made two or three mistakes early, and we just couldn’t get a rhythm going on offense,’ Boeheim said. ‘Sometimes that happens when you get a lead, but you still don’t want that to happen.’
Six Syracuse players – the starting five and Devendorf – all scored between 11 and 17 points. Nobody else had more than two, as Boeheim stuck to a familiar seven-man rotation until deep into the blowout.
Andy Rautins continued his strong play, leading Syracuse with 17 points on five 3′s and a field goal. Since moving into a starting role five games ago, Rautins is averaging 19 points per game, and leads the Big East in 3-pointers made in conference play.
‘My teammates are doing a great job of finding me, setting me screens, looking for me,’ Rautins said.
The Orange was also aided by the return of two players: Devendorf, who suffered a hip pointer in the early seconds against USF and finished with eight points, shot 5-of-11 from the field Wednesday. Harris, who sat out the South Florida game with a cut on his finger, returned to the lineup to play 32 minutes, totaling 14 points and nine rebounds.
More importantly, for Flynn, Harris provided energy to help keep Syracuse out of the doldrums.
‘I think we missed that in the second quarter of the South Florida game,’ Flynn said of Harris’ energy.
The Orange is in the midst of a four-game stretch against the statistically worst teams in the Big East to start its conference season. It finishes with a trip to 6-9 Rutgers on Saturday, before entering one of the toughest stretches of games in the country, with contests against No. 9 Georgetown, No. 13 Notre Dame, No. 1 Pittsburgh, and No. 23 Louisville, all in the span of 11 days.
‘It’s encouraging to win your last two games,’ Boeheim said. ‘We could have played better, we’re still making some mistakes that we can correct. The schedule is what it is. I’d say we’re probably playing the toughest schedule in the Big East.’
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