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"I will slap you in the FACE!"
Welcome back to the Carrier Dome, and cold & snow & wind, and most importantly, winning. We all know Syracuse has struggled over the past month, going 4-6 and losing the last three games in the Carrier Dome. A loss to West Virginia on Big Monday would have been devastating in many aspects. Thankfully, the Orange went out there and played just well enough to earn a victory. Before 22,669 fans (supposedly), the Orange beat the Mountaineers 63-52.
  • For the second straight game, Syracuse started Brandon Triche, Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph, Rick Jackson, and Baye Keita.
  • The first man out was Kris Joseph, who Boeheim rode hard all night for what I would assume is not being aggressive enough on offense (trying to lay the ball in when he has a clear shot to dunk and greatly increase his chances of making the shot) and being out of position on defense. Taking his spot was our new go-to man, CJ Fair.
  • Going right to the bench, CJ logged 37 minutes. For all intents & purposes, as long as he's playing well, he's the fifth starter. We're just flat out going to use this smaller lineup without a true center (sliding Ricky over to that spot). I guess this was inevitable when DeShonte Riley had to medical redshirt this season, and Fab Melo turned out to be what he is.
  • This is, of course, to take nothing away from Baye Keita. I've been praising him all season, and I won't stop now. But his offense leaves much to be desired, and Boeheim said as much in his post-game presser (well, at least the part of the presser where he actually discussed the game). In only nine minutes, Keita no points and four rebounds. He turned the ball over twice, which is really what the problem is. He's got bad hands. He can't catch a pass. I have all the confidence in the world that this problem can be corrected for next season. Unfortunately for him (and us?) it's still this season right now.
  • The rest of the starters played starter's minutes, and pretty much had the stats to back it up. Our leading scorer was Triche with 20 points on 7-12 shooting (2-5 from three) and a lot of production with four fouls. Kris managed 16 points on 5-10 shooting (1-2 from three) and also had a couple steals, a couple assists, and five rebounds. Ricky fell a rebound short of another double-double: 10 points and nine rebounds. Finally, Scoop had nine points on 3-10 shooting, six assists, five steals, and five rebounds.
  • I'll be honest, looking at the stat sheet right now, I'm surprised by Scoop's shooting numbers. I can only think of a couple times during the game when I was like "Oh Scoop, damn it!" I thought he had a rather okay game overall with few mistakes. He did turn the ball over four times, which is higher than the acceptable 2, maybe 3. But his gameplay didn't scream "boneheaded" to me in this one.
  • West Virginia got most of its production from Casey Mitchell's 23 points. He was 8-14 shooting, which included 7-12 from three. The next highest scorer for the Mountaineers was John Flowers with 10.
  • As had been expected, WVU wasn't going to wow us with their offense, and once the Orange found a way to contain Mitchell, they were already warming up the buses to travel back to Morgantown.
  • Overall, Syracuse shot 46.0% to WVU's 36.2%. The Mountaineers dominated the three-point shooting at 50.0% to 30.8% (11 to 4 made threes). Syracuse had the edge in rebounding at 31-26, and WVU had two more turnovers at 16-14.
  • After weeks -- no, months -- of joking about it, I finally bought wine in the Carrier Dome. It came in a little 6 or 8 ounce plastic cup, and it was weird walking that back to my seat. I insisted on holding my pinky out, just for the ridiculousness of it. It was a fine merlot, and $7 later, it seems we have a new good luck charm in the Dome.
  • I considered this a must-win for Syracuse, and luckily they pulled through. The remaining home games (Rutgers and DePaul) I also consider must-wins. I think to be safe, they need to win one of the away games at either Villanova or Georgetown.
  • But don't get me wrong. I don't think Syracuse is a bubble team. I don't think they're NIT bound. In fact, I get a little upset when people talk that way. The selections are four weeks from this past Sunday. There's still four games left, plus the Big East Tourney. We're 21-6. I mean, yeah, if you lose out and go 21-10 heading into BET, even if you win one there, it's gonna be tough. And you'll have a loss to DePaul on your resume. But come on, people. This goes along with the rant Boeheim went on in his postgame presser. The sky's not falling. It rains around here (and also snows, a lot) and you have to remember that. If the sky is falling come March 10th or 11th, then go ahead and panic. Till then, try to be a bit more optimistic, okay?

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