MBB : Physical play of Big East lesson learned for young Syracuse
Jan. 2, 11:01 p.m. — Jonny Flynn went sky high for the fast-break dunk attempt and met St. John’s guard Paris Horne in the air. The ball didn’t fall through the hoop and Flynn went flying. There was no foul.
That’s when Flynn learned his lesson.
‘I heard the whistle, so I’m like, ‘OK, there’s got to be a foul call there,” Flynn said. ‘And there wasn’t a foul. I’m like, ‘Wow, this is the Big East.”
For five out of Syracuse’s seven regulars, it was their first encounter with conference play, the vaunted physical Big East, where the ticky-tack foul calls go away. And while three Orange starters ended up with four fouls apiece, the lesson was learned by the youngsters in Wednesday night’s 76-70 victory over the Red Storm: The Big East is a different monster.
‘You hear so much about it, that they’re not going to call this or that, but until you keep continuing the game and you see hitting and it’s not a (foul) call, that’s when you realize you are in a hard-fought battle,’ Flynn said.
The freshman guard Flynn was one of three Syracuse starters experiencing their first conference game, along with forward Donte Greene and guard Scoop Jardine.
Flynn played all 40 minutes and Jardine logged 35, but Greene fell victim to foul trouble and sat out almost nine minutes of the second half.
‘It’s what I thought it would be,’ Jardine said of his seven-point conference debut. ‘I would never underestimate anything. It was what I thought and more.’
Paul Harris and Arinze Onuaku were the only members of the Orange with Big East experience – limited at that. Harris averaged 18.9 minutes per conference game last season and Onuaku appeared in 13 Big East games during his freshman season, 2005-06.
That lead most in the locker room after the final non-conference game, a 95-74 win over Northeastern, to appoint Harris the leader headed into the next 18 games, a title he laughed at. His message to the team was simple, though.
‘I told them you can’t be looking for fouls,’ the sophomore Harris said. ‘The competition is going to get harder and it’ll be a rougher game.’
But even Harris admitted he fell victim to that inexperience. After all, it was just his 17th regular-season Big East contest.
‘Honestly, I was doing it too,’ said Harris, of looking for foul calls. ‘I think the refs weren’t calling a lot of things because it was the first Big East game.’
With both Harris and Greene in foul trouble and Harris playing some guard in Greene’s absence, the two accounted for only seven rebounds. In this physical game down low, Syracuse was outrebounded by St. John’s, 42-36.
‘We didn’t do as good a job on the boards as we need,’ Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. ‘I think Donte and Paul need to do a better job there, for sure.’
There were 40 total fouls between the two teams, leading to a grand total of 52 foul shots that made for a lengthy game. And if it weren’t for Syracuse missing free throws down the stretch, a six-point win would have probably been double digits.
‘We missed more than our share down the stretch,’ Boeheim said. ‘That’s something we just gotta do a better job with.’
Boeheim was up and out of his seat more than a handful of times, motioning to the officials what he thought was or was not a foul call. And one of the more animated one was an over-the-back call on Kristof Ongenaet with 36 seconds left in the first half. The head coach lifted both of his arms upward to show his displeasure, insinuating that Ongenaet never touched his defender.
Flynn said when he realized there was no call on his drive to the basket, he came to terms with it.
‘I wasn’t even mad,’ he said. ‘I know it’s going to be physical. There were a lot of calls in the game and people were getting hit.’
That, Flynn said, was the lesson learned by the young Syracuse team. Welcome to the Big East – there’s at least 17 more games to go.
Said Flynn: ‘We didn’t even play a Georgetown, where you have the 7-footer (Roy) Hibbert, or Louisville, a veteran team that’s going to hit you and do things to get under your skin.’
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