MBB : Breathe easy
After a three-game stretch full of miraculous shots, desperate second-half comebacks and statement victories, Arinze Onuaku knew Syracuse needed an easy one. A squad can handle only so much stress in such a short period of time.
So Onuaku didn’t try to make too much of Monday night’s game, an 86-51 Syracuse win over Colgate. Last week was about sending a message. This was about finally having the chance to relax.
‘Today was for working on your stuff, getting a little bit of rest and finally getting a break before the next game,’ said Onuaku, who scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds in 23 minutes. ‘Especially for the starters – we needed to rest our legs a little bit.’
They got their chance. No. 16 Syracuse, which cracked the national rankings Monday for the first time in more than a year, dominated the Raiders in front of 18,422 in the Carrier Dome. The Orange (7-0) played arguably its most complete game of the year against a Division I opponent, jumping on Colgate early and never letting up. With about six minutes remaining in the first half, Syracuse held an insurmountable 37-7 lead.
Paul Harris led the way for the Orange with a game-high 22 points. Point guard Jonny Flynn added 12 points and seven assists. Backup forward Rick Jackson had a double-double with 10 points and a career-high 10 rebounds in 13 minutes.
This was after an especially trying set of games against Florida, Kansas and Virginia in a span of five days. Against the Jayhawks and Cavaliers, Syracuse needed to battle back from 11-point halftime deficits to win. On Monday, the Orange led by 30 at the break – the importance of which was not lost on the team.
‘It’s been tough the last two games. We were down 11 and had to come back,’ Harris said. ‘We did it, but it’s better to be up by 30 than down by 30 any day.’
Syracuse took control of the game from the opening tip. Flynn hit a 3-pointer on the Orange’s first possession, then stole the ensuing inbounds pass and turned it into a layup. Forty seconds into the game, SU already led 5-0 and set the tone for the rest of the night.
The Orange dominated every statistical category. Syracuse shot 50.8 percent for the game to Colgate’s 30.6 percent. It out-rebounded the Raiders, 48-32, and out-scored them in the paint, 54-14.
By the time Colgate (2-3) called its first timeout less than three minutes into the game, Syracuse had an 11-2 lead. When it called its second about seven minutes later, the lead was 25-7.
‘You definitely need something like this,’ Flynn said. ‘There was a lot of energy used last week. A whole lot of energy.’
In the first half alone, the Orange had runs of 7-0, 8-0 and 12-0. The Raiders twice went stretches of almost five minutes without a field goal, befuddled by Syracuse’s swarming man-to-man defense. By halftime, Colgate already had 15 turnovers. In his postgame press conference, SU head coach Jim Boeheim stressed how much he was impressed with the team’s defense and concentration, especially in the first half.
Colgate shot better in the second half, as the Orange lessened its defensive intensity playing with a huge lead. Still, the Raiders never cut the deficit inside 25 points.
Syracuse used 13 players and 10 scored. Seldom-used players like guard Justin Thomas and center Sean Williams both played in the first half. Even walk-ons Jake Presutti and Brandon Reese put points on the board.
‘This is a game that helps the locker room out. It keeps everybody happy,’ Flynn said. ‘A lot of guys that aren’t getting playing time played in the game. Games like this, when everybody’s happy and everybody’s having fun, it makes everything more smooth.’
Outside of Syracuse’s first game against Division II Le Moyne, the Orange had yet to really dominate a game. After a 20-point win over Oakland on Nov. 21, Boeheim spoke about how he felt his team still needed to prove it could blow out its opponents.
Consider it done.
‘It felt real good,’ Boeheim said. ‘I’d like a lot of these.’
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