For Syracuse fans watching Monday's game between the Orange and Cincinnati, the fact that the Bearcats made four of their first five three-pointers may have been a cause for concern. But the Bearcats made just four the rest of the game (with 20 more attempts), making it important to note that those deep threes that fall early more times than not are "fool's gold" against the Syracuse zone. Kris Joseph rebounded from a quiet game on Saturday to score 17 points on 8-for-11 shooting and as a team the Orange outscored Cincinnati 36-24 in the paint on their way to the 60-53 win.
"In the game against Notre Dame, we got off to a bad start. We just never fought back. Tonight, they hit the four threes," said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. "Sometimes, it's a good thing when they start a game like that. Not always, but sometimes. I wasn't as concerned as I was the other night because we were getting good things on offense."
Syracuse's bench, which allowed them to hang around at Notre Dame while the starters struggled, was quiet with Dion Waiters and James Southerland combining to score nine points on 4-for-15 shooting. But starting guards Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine improved their play as they combined to score 24 points and dish out nine assists. Rakeem Christmas, who looked overwhelmed in the middle at Notre Dame, played much better defense and did things that couldn't be measured simply by looking at his four-point, four-rebound stat line.
"[Rakeem] was huge. Inside on Gates, he did a very good job for a freshman," noted Boeheim. "I thought he was really good in the middle."
Cashmere Wright led the Bearcats with 17 points and four assists and Yancy Gates added 16 and ten rebounds, but the shooting struggles of Dion Dixon and Rakeem Christmas (5-for-18 FG, 3-for-11 3PT) combined with Cincinnati's 3-for-9 night from the foul line did them in. And that's with Syracuse making just five of their fifteen shots from the line. Cincinnati got off to a hot start against the Melo-less Orange, but unlike Saturday the Orange were better equipped mentally to deal with such an opening blow.
"I told the players this was as good a regular-season bounce-back win that I can remember at Syracuse," said Boeheim. "We were just so woeful Saturday night. But, coming here in that atmosphere, the way they started the game to play the way we did - I thought was tremendous."
Other Notable Happenings
1. Iona once again relaxes after getting a big lead and they pay dearly for it.
Just eleven days ago Tim Cluess' Gaels lost at the buzzer to Manhattan in a game they led 67-49 at the under-8 media timeout, and their second meeting with Siena came just 20 days after blowing out the Saints at Madison Square Garden. So jumping out to a 20-2 lead means "game over", right? That's what the Gaels seemed to think, and as a result of that complacency the Saints were able to fight their way to a stunning 65-62 win at the Times Union Center. O.D. Anosike led the Saints with 17 points and 15 rebounds, Kyle Downey added 16 and Rob Poole scored 14 off the bench as a team that can only go seven deep picked up the best win of its season to date. On the flip side is the shocking tumble of the Gaels, and the foul trouble of Scott Machado is one reason why.
The senior finished with 16 points, 12 of which came during that opening run, but played just 25 minues due to three first-half fouls (the third coming on a technical for arguing a call from the bench). Mike Glover accounted for 19 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots but Sean Armand, who knocked down ten three-pointers in the first meeting, attempted just one shot and Momo Jones shot 7-for-20 from the field. Kyle Smyth finished 1-for-5 from deep and as a team the Gaels shot 3-for-16, but the biggest issue has been the on/off switch they use far too often. Now tied with Manhattan and Loyola (MD) atop the MAAC standings, the Gaels likely now find themselves in a position where they have to win the conference tournament to get to the Big Dance.
2. Kansas remains undefeated in Big 12 play despite a spirited fight from Texas A&M.
Many like myself expected Bill Self's team to roll over a Texas A&M squad that was without the services of the injured Khris Middleton. But due to both the Aggies' refusal to lie down and the Jayhawks being a bit too fond of the perimeter shot in the first half Texas A&M took a two-point lead into the locker room at halftime. Kansas would rebound thanks in large part to Tyshawn Taylor, who scored 17 points, and 11 points off turnovers as they won 64-54 at Allen Fieldhouse.
Thomas Robinson led Kansas with 18 points and grabbed ten rebounds while Elston Turner led all scorers with 24 points, but the absence of Middleton and the balky ankle of Dash Harris proved to be too much to overcome for the visitors. And the play of Jeff Withey can't be ignored either, as he finished the night with ten points, eight blocked shots and four rebounds. Kansas learned a good lesson in victory, as they'll likely have it drilled into their heads that they're too good to settle for 20 three-point attempts (making just four).
3. Mississippi Valley State increases their lead to two games with an OT win at Texas Southern.
The matchup of the top two teams in the SWAC was nowhere to be found on television but that shouldn't diminish the importance of the Delta Devils' 77-69 overtime win at Texas Southern. Neither team shot particularly well as both hovered around the 38% mark, but the Delta Devils' work on the glass proved to be the difference. MVSU out-rebounded the Tigers 47-36, grabbing 18 offensive boards and outscoring Texas Southern 29-20 in the paint.
Terrence Joyner led four players in double figures with 18 points and Paul Crosby put up a double-double with 15 points and ten rebounds. Texas Southern was done in by three starters combining for just nine points, which proved costly despite the fact that the game reached overtime. Texas Southern would be the two-seed in the conference tournament at this point since Southern (Grambling as well) is ineligible for postseason play due to APR issues, but they allowed a great opportunity to at least gain separation on the rest of the conference to slip through their fingers.
1. Belmont bounced back from their tough loss to USC Upstate with an 82-70 win at East Tennessee State to remain tied atop the Atlantic Sun with Mercer. Mick Hedgepeth led five Bruins in double figures with 17 points as Belmont won despite shooting 5-for-19 from three and turning the ball over 19 times.
2. The struggles continue for Towson, who hung with Delaware for nearly 30 minutes or so before falling 62-43. The Blue Hens outscored the Tigers, now 0-21 on the season, 20-4 over the final 10:30 and made 18 of 20 from the charity stripe (Towson finished 7-for-14).
3. Loyola Marymount moved to 5-0 in road WCC games as they beat Santa Clara 74-62. Anthony Ireland led the way with 25 points and five assists, and Max Good's team has the talent needed to remain in the race with Saint Mary's, Gonzaga and BYU if not win it.
4. North Carolina A&T nearly blew a 20-points second half lead at Coppin State, but thanks to an Adrian Powell three with 39 seconds remaining in overtime the Aggies left Baltimore with a 93-92 win. In fact, A&T needed a Nic Simpson (22 points) layup as time expired to simply get the game into overtime.
5. Playing in their road uniforms due to having some of their home jerseys swiped over the weekend, Old Dominion beat Northeastern 69-57 to remain a game behind George Mason in the CAA. Trian Iliadis scored 18 points and Chris Cooper posted a double-double (15 points, ten rebounds) as the Monarchs rebounded from their loss at VCU.
Three Notable Performances
1. F O.D. Anosike (Siena)
The nation's leading rebounder scored 17 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the Saints' 65-62 win over Iona.
2. C Matt Groselle (Citadel)
20 points and 14 rebounds in the Bulldogs' 78-72 double-overtime loss at Georgia Southern. Groselle played 49 of the 50 minutes.
3. G D.J. Brown (San Jose State)
33 points (9-11 FG, 9-10 FT) and four rebounds in the Spartans' 78-70 win over Cal State Bakersfield.