The last week and a half as brought three more wins for Syracuse Basketball. Syracuse had one more non-conference tilt before embarking back on the Big East train. Syracuse handled their business, although it took a good half to truly recover from the Pittsburgh loss, however Syracuse bounced back and finished with three more wins, two of which were in the Big East.
January 6th v. Memphis
Memphis got off to a good start and Syracuse trailed a bit in the first half. However good shooting from Andy Rautins to end the half earned the momentum to tie the game going into the half and Syracuse came out much better in the second half. They were able to put Memphis away with about five minutes to go. The Orange went on to beat Memphis 74 to 57.
Syracuse's leading scorer was again Wes Johnson with 19 points. That was a game high for scoring. He also finished with seven rebounds and three assists. Additionally he went 6-6 from the free throw line. Easily the best player on the day sadly he gave up the ball five times, which certainly hindered Syracuse from putting away Memphis far earlier in the game. He tied for the most on the team.
Kris Joseph had another phenomenal day off the bench, earning 15 points and leading the team with nine rebounds. He did all this in 25 minutes of work. Additionally he also did well from the charity stripe, hitting 7-8. In a game in which ball handling is not at as much of a premium, Joseph is clearly the most valuable player off the bench.
While Syracuse had some pretty gruesome scoring droughts, they actually finished shooting 54.5% on the day. Additionally, from behind they arc they shot 50%, hitting 7-14. Memphis shot 40% and 32.1% respectively.
Syracuse sadly had 17 turnovers in this game compared to the 13 Memphis committed. Syracuse won by 17, and with 17 more possessions I can't imagine how over this would have been, and early. Syracuse was committing turnovers, especially from Johnson and Triche that they had not been making in any of the previous games. They also didn't let their offense come to them, but rather tried to force a lot in transition, which did not help.
However, due to the win, Syracuse finished their non-conference slate perfectly. They then resumed the Big East conference, hoping to put a better foot forward than they did in the Pittsburgh game. They got to against South Florida, a team that has only won two Big East games in the entire time they have been part of the conference.
January 10 v. South Florida
South Florida jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but that was their biggest and only lead of the game. After that Syracuse continually built their lead, working both the inside post and their outside shooting. Syracuse spread the ball around the floor and assisted on 19 of 32 field goals. Additionally they took better care of the ball. Syracuse finished the first half ahead 40 to 28 and won the game over South Florida 82 to 65.
Johnson again led the Orange in scoring with another 19 points. He also earned a double-double by pulling down 13 rebounds. He took better care of the ball, only committing three turnovers this time. He again was perfect on free throws, making 6-6 as well.
Four of the five starters were in double digits for scoring with Johnson having 19, Rick Jackson with 15, Arinze Onuaku with 12, and Brandon Triche with ten. Andy Rautins had eight points as well. Rautins led the team with seven assists as well.
Syracuse finished with 50.8% (32-63) shooting on the day but only 29.4% (5-17) from long range. Obviously USF finished worse, shooting 40% (22-55) and 16.7% (3-18) respectively. USF however out rebounded Syracuse, pulling down 37 to 34. Syracuse did take better care of the ball though, only committing 11 turnovers to USF's 13.
Syracuse, after the USF game, was 2-1 in the Big East, however they then began a three game road stand starting with a notoriously tough trip to the RAC with Rutgers. Being at Rutgers is currently in deterioration this was an important win for Syracuse to get to not only start off the road trip right, but not sully their resume with a bad loss.
January 13th @ Rutgers
Syracuse had won the last nine games versus Rutgers. With Fred Hill being very publicly scrutinized by past and present players alike, this was a must win game for Syracuse. They cruised in the first half to a 41-23 lead. Andy Rautins was shooting lights out and Syracuse earned a big lead at the half without having to posterize a player from Rutgers this time. However Syracuse caught some momentum in the second half off Mike Rosario and closed the game to single digits. However, with about five minutes to go this game was over. Syracuse's transition game was far to much for Rutgers to keep up with as Syracuse goes on to win their second Big East road game 81 to 65.
Andy Rautins led the team with 23 points on 7-14 shooting from the floor and 4-10 from behind the arc. He also hit 5-6 free throw baskets. He looked really good on the floor and this is the first game in a while that he has looked really comfortable shooting the ball.
Mookie Jones found a lot of time on the floor and made good use of it in this game. In 22 minutes of play he hit 3-6 from three point range and finished with 11 points. He also pulled down four rebounds and had two steals.
Additionally, with Triche playing poorly as of late, not handling the ball well and committing turnovers, Scoop Jardine came in, handled the ball well , and was able to score. He finished with 12 points and six assists. He also hit 6-9 from the free throw line.
Syracuse shot better from long range this game making 9-22 (40.9%). Rutgers hit 11 which kept them in part of this game, but Syracuse shot better overall with 47.5% (28-59) success from the floor. Rutgers shot 38.5% (25-65).
Syracuse had 21 assists in the game on the 28 field goals SU made. Rutgers had 14 assists on 25 field goals. Syracuse was a bit sloppy in this game however, committing 18 turnovers. They still beat Rutgers however, who had 21. Syracuse out rebounded Rutgers as well, earning 35 whereas Rutgers had 31. Truly interesting statistic of the evening however is SU attempting 22 free throws, while Rutgers only shot five.
Syracuse is now 16-1 (3-1) and currently ranked #5 once again. However Syracuse now faces two tough road games with West Virginia this Saturday and Notre Dame on Monday. Both places are tough to play. Although recent history is that we beat both teams last season these games will not be easy. Syracuse will have some truly tough tests coming up in the Big East. Really though, would you want it any other way?