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As if Syracuse fans needed more reason to think the national media wasn't giving the Orange its proper due, we find ourselves in an officiating controversy with the game on the line.  I'll get into that more in a bit, but suffice to say last Saturday's game against West Virginia ended up being a lot closer than it should have been.  In a hard-fought battle before a season-high 28,740 fans in the Carrier Dome, the Orange outlasted the Mountaineers 63-61.
  • CJ Fair earned another start in place of currently-ineligible Fab Melo.  This marked the third game Melo hasn't played, but the first at home.  Melo was with the team and on the bench, but in what is colloquially known as "street clothes."
  • Player of the game awards probably go to Brandon Triche: 7-12 shooting for 18 points, two assists, and two steals in 24 minutes of action.  He was the most consistent player for the Orange up and down the court, and hit shots when it counted.  Of note, he was also 2-4 from three and 2-2 from the line.
  • Though he didn't have a consistently good game, and at this point seems to be wasting everyone's time in shooting from three, Kris Joseph proves to be the go-to guy yet again.  Clutch down the stretch, Kris finished with 13 points (including 5-5 from the line), hit the boards hard with seven, and also added three assists, two blocks, and two steals.
  • Jim Boeheim was riding Kris real hard from the start of this game.  Several times, Boeheim could be seen questioning Kris as "What are you doing?" or "What are you thinking?"  It's clear coach is holding Kris to a high standard, and wants the very best from his senior leader.
  • Also in the Boeheim doghouse was Rakeem Christmas.  Rak was pulled early on in favor of Baye Keita, but as Keita got in foul trouble, Rak saw more minutes until finally fouling out.  His one rebound, one block, and one steal effort in 14 minutes on the floor was anything but good.  You want to know why we miss Fab Melo?  That's why we miss Fab Melo.
  • For his part, Keita did what he had to do.  He's not gonna wow you with his play, and he won't light up the box score, but he did what he had to do.  In 25 minutes: four points, five rebounds, and "three" blocks.
  • With time running down in regulation and Syracuse up by two, West Virginia attempted a three-point shot.  The shot fell short, was rebounded under the basket by Deniz Kilicli, who kissed the ball off the backboard before it was blocked by Keita.  The ball went out of bounds, possession remaining with West Virginia with six seconds remaining.  A desperation three with time expiring fell short, and Syracuse hung on for the victory.
  • Keita's block was, of course, a goaltend.  Had the officials called it correctly, West Virginia would have been credited with a 2-point basket, the game tied at 63, and Syracuse possession with eight seconds to go.  Syracuse could have scored in that eight seconds to win the game, or the game could have gone to overtime.  Instead, the officials missed the call, the Mountaineers retained possession with six seconds, and failed to score.  That's it and that's all.
  • Syracuse was once again killed on the boards, 40-21.  Those numbers get better if Fab's on the floor, but not significantly.  This is a team issue that needs to improve if Syracuse is to go deep into the Big East tournament or the NCAA tournament.
  • Syracuse was 4-20 from three for the game, or 20%.  Many of the misses came on wide open looks.  There's the school of thought that says if you get the wide open look you take the shot.  There's the other school of thought that if you can't hit the broad side of a barn you shouldn't take the shot.  Each school has its wisdom, but my biggest gripe here is that these wide open misses are resulting in empty possessions.  I'll take two any day and every day, over zero.
With the win over the Mountaineers, Syracuse improved to 22-1 on the season, 9-1 in the Big East; West Virginia fell to 15-7 on the season, 5-4 in the Big East.  The current Fab Melo absence is coming at probably the most opportune time of the season: while ND/Cincy was Saturday/Monday, WVU followed on Saturday, and Syracuse doesn't play again until this coming Saturday at St. John's.  If it is indeed an academic issue, that's a lot of time to clear up the issue without missing too many games.  So we all hope things are clear for this Saturday.  Syracuse loves to play in the Garden, and Syracuse fans love to be there and make it a home atmosphere.  Brian and I will be joining the legions of other Orange fans at MSG on Saturday, so keep it here and on twitter for coverage of that game.


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