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Just a nice, intimate setting for a loss.
Well that was not even as bad as I predicted it. I said Syracuse would lose by 16 and sure enough it was only 14. Moral victory! This turned out about how I thought it would because I’m not batshit crazy. Either way, tonight I was going to be alright. Either Syracuse lost to the #1 team they were supposed to, or Syracuse gets a ridiculous upset. Tonight, the former happened and Connecticut beat Syracuse 63 to 49.

Jonny Flynn led the team, as we all thought he would, in scoring with 16 points, shooting 5-15, 1-3 from behind the arc, and 5-8 from the free throw line. He played well, but clearly tried to do too much in the game. Then again, maybe that was necessary because not many other people were playing well enough to have any meaningful impact later in the second half. He played fairly well though, the best for Syracuse, in his 39 minutes on the floor.

Eric Devendorf had 12 points on 5-12 shooting, going 2-5 from three point range. Devendorf’s problem in this game was also trying to do too much, and not making easy baskets. At one point in the final ten minutes of the game he had an open look at the top of the key for a three point basket and he failed to connect. That, at this level, in any game is unacceptable if you are really open. He was, and he missed. Devendorf was not as reckless in this game as he was in Philly, but it was still pretty bad, committing four bad turnovers. Recklessness with the ball is becoming Devendorf’s trademark. Keep in mind these two were the only two in double digits for points for Syracuse.

Andy Rautins made one of six baskets from long range, and that is not enough to beat a good shooting team like UConn. He finished with seven points, shooting 3-8 overall. Not a good day after making a three point basket early in the first half. At this point I’m concerned for Rautin’s future career with Syracuse because he still is not shooting well after several games back from his ankle injury.

Paul Harris did not end up getting going as he stated. He finished with five points and five rebounds, highlighted by an awful three point attempt and a missing of two free throws. He did his patented move several times, coughing up the ball four times, to lead the team with Devendorf. This was not Paul’s best game, who has now disappeared in the last several, save the West Virginia game.

Speaking of disappearing, Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson were total non-factors in this game. Onuaku finished with four points and six rebounds (and shot two horrifically bad free throws), and Jackson finished with two points, four rebounds, three assists, and two steals, and a block. Onuaku actually shot a measly 1-9, attempting several hook shots that just did not go down. Jackson also matched up well against Hasheem Thabeet, but only shot 1-4. Jackson ended up better stat wise on the day, but both did not play up to their level in this game.

Kristof! only earned three points, but anyone can clearly see he did well in this game, seeming to thrive on the pressure. He had eight rebounds, three steals, and three blocks. Kristof was the most active on defense and at times he looked like he could really use some help. The best part of the night for Kristof! was when Thabeet tried to throw the ball off of him to go out of bounds and retain possession, but it went right off of his face. After about a minute, Kristof! stood up and stayed in the game. Meanwhile Thabeet checked out of the game after giving high fives to his teammates and not at least shaking his hand. It was incidental in the first place, but Thabeet’s conduct after seems to indicate otherwise. Either way, he stayed in the game and played on.

Just a couple of comments on Thabeet. Clearly he is a pretty good basketball player, and a good shot blocker, but I think Boeheim and several media types are way off when they say he is one of the best shot blockers. Half the shots he blocked he was just being tall, flailing his arms and connected several times. He finished with seven blocks. Only three or four of them were legitimately great blocks off the backboard. He also only finished with eight points. This is clearly a victory and honestly Onuaku and Jackson did a nice job of defending him and sealing a passing lane to him on a lot of possessions.

This game was one of the most lopsided refereed affairs I have ever witnessed in college basketball. Granted I should not have been too surprised as John Cahill and Jimmy Burr were on the call. However, the fact that UConn only had four fouls in the second half is simply ridiculous. I understand this is the Big East so they will let some contact go, but when Thabeet goes for a rebound and leads with a knee and bangs into our players and no foul is called, it is a bit much. Similarly, there was a rebound late in the game in which Kristof! had both hands on the ball, Thabeet went over his back and had his hands over Kristof!’s hands, and they called a foul on Kristof!, also was completely unbelievable and ridiculous. This entire crew, filled out by Les Jones, were not good in this game. I hate blaming referees, but I think anyone that watched this game, Orange or Husky, could tell that it was quite a bit unfair.

As for that Harris/Calhoun situation you may have seen or heard about, I was pretty close to this incident. Calhoun went absolutely NUTS. So much so that he just walked on the court to say something to Harris, then he immediately went and tattled to Jim Burr. About a minute after the “cool off” talk from the referee, Calhoun again stepped on the court and did a little handshake. I don’t think Paul meant any ill will by it, but it sure pissed the hell out of Calhoun.

The defense in this game worked well, and Syracuse forced a lot of turnovers for UConn (20). In comparison, Syracuse only had 13. Yes, Syracuse limited their turnovers to 13. The zone worked well and I was pleased with the effort of the team for once. It was much improved from the Villanova game, however good offense is good offense, and a lot of mid range jump shots, as well as three point baskets, fell for UConn.

As for the Syracuse offense, why does it look so easy for UConn to move the ball and penetrate, and it looks so arduous for Syracuse? It looked painful and futile sometimes. They would drive, and dish, and drive and dish, and pass, and still nothing would be a good option. Additionally, Syracuse would drive a lot, and instead of dishing back out, they would take a high traffic, outmatched, bad shot to the backboard, that of course would result in going the other way. Syracuse again shot poorly (31.7%), while UConn obviously did better (43.8%). Rebounds were an issue in this game as well. Syracuse earned 33 rebounds, while UConn pulled down 41. Rebounding was going to be a key point for this Syracuse team and they did not deliver.
I am still confused as to how, during play, the referee can just stop the play and allow Jim Calhoun to sub in AJ Price for Stanley Robinson. My only thought was that there could have been blood on him, but I sure did not see any. It is almost like the USC/Notre Dame game of 2005 in which the re-spotted a ball just because Pete Carroll pointed and told them to. I guess if it is your arena you make the rules?

This game was kind of a tease. While I was under no illusion that we were going to win this game, Syracuse was only down three points at the half, and forced UConn into making more mistakes than they did. That gives you a dangerous and negligent level of hope. However, the drubbing was only 14 points instead of my predicted 16 so I guess it could have been much worse. Either way, I had fun being in that environment, packed in with 10,166 other people enjoying some premier college basketball. I again would like to thank our friends at TheUConnBlog for being good sports in the best way as we all traded jabs this week in good fun. For continuing coverage of Connecticut Athletics be sure to check them out. Also, for the record, no Jim Calhoun did not make me cry. Syracuse will now look to rebound against vilified foe Georgetown in the Carrier Dome this weekend. Make no mistake, that game has big implications.
PS - Jerome Dyson is out indefinitely with a torn meniscus. You're welcome rest of the Big East and NCAA Division 1.

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