Monday, February 8, 2010

Syracuse 71 Cincinnati 54

(Enquirer/Joseph Fuqua II)

The Cincinnati Bearcats (14-9, 5-6) were held to just 5 points the last 12 minutes of the game as the Syracuse Orange (23-1, 10-1) scored 28 en route to a lopsided Orange win. The Bearcats played pretty well until the 12 minute mark of the second half. Cashmere Wright hit a 3 and UC lead 49-43 at that time. UC would then commit 7 fouls in the next 5 minutes and go incredibly stagnant on offense. The last UC field goal was a Cash Wright jumper at the 8 minute mark, and the last points were Ibrahima Thomas free throws at the 6 minute mark. Steve Toyloy hit a free throw the possession before Wright. If one were to compare it to another game from this season, it would absolutely be the UAB game. In that loss, the Bearcats scored 6 points the last 11 minutes and were run over. That's pretty much what happened Sunday. Let's not sell the Cats completely short, unlike that game, they played hard. It's just when push came to shove, Syracuse shoved the Bearcats into a corner and kicked the crap out of them. All credit goes to Syracuse. They are legit, and really, really good. Despite only 5 points and 3 boards from Wesley Johnson, the Orange had plenty in the tank. Andy Rautins blocked Biggie McClain (pictured), and had 20 points. Kris Joseph came off the bench and outscored Cincinnati's bench by himself with 17. He hit a couple of huge 3s. 1 to give Syracuse the lead, and the other to give them a 10 point lead. He was great, just like Brian from Orange::44 predicted. He was also right on the money with what kind of team Syracuse struggled with, as this was a battle. Let's dive in and look at how it played out.

If you have followed the Big East this season, you know that one team has to build up a lead so the other team can storm back. UC did just that, bursting out to a 15-6 lead. On his 23rd birthday (happy birthday Ibrahima!) Ibrahima Thomas jumped all over the Orange with 7 of those points. Ibby scored inside, at the line, and from 3 point land. The 9 point lead lasted about 15 second before Scoop Jardine (11-6 assists) hit a trey. UC's offense went in the tank at this point as well. UC didn't score for nearly 7 minutes, and Syracuse creeped into the lead off an Arinze Onuaku lay up. Onuaku had 6 of the 17. After a timeout, UC jumped back in the lead with a Larry Davis 3. Lance Stephenson stepped in here and scored the next 6 for UC, around a Rautins triple, and a Joseph free throw, and the Cats lead by 3. After a Deonta Vaughn lay up, Rautins hit his 3rd 3 of the game, and Scoop Jardine followed with a 3 of his own and Syracuse retook the advantage. The teams traded a 1 point lead through the rest of the half, with Yancy Gates doing all the UC scoring. The last points were scored by Syracuse on a Joseph jumper for a 1 point lead, and a Jardine free throw for the 32-30 score at the half. Syracuse shot 12-27, 5-11, 3-9 at the stripe, and had 5 offensive boards, 15 total. They were lead by Jardine's 9, Rautins' 9, and Onuaku's 6-5. For Cincinnati, Ibrahima Thomas lead the way with 9-4, Lance Stephenson had 8-6, Gates had 6-4 with 3 of those offensive, and Vaughn had 4. UC shot 11-29, 3-9, 5-11 with 18 rebounds, 6 on offense. Extremely poor free throw shooting on both sides, but otherwise, pretty well played.

Half 2 started with Ibrahima Thomas tying the game, and Syracuse going on a run. Onuaku, Brandon Triche (his only 2), and Rick Jackson (5-10) pushed the lead to 6. Gates answered with 2 of his own, but Rautins hit another 3 to push the lead to 7 and cause a UC timeout. Whatever Mick Cronin said in the huddle worked, because UC came out on fire. Cashmere Wright (7) hit a lay up, Rashad Bishop (5) hit a 3, and Yancy Gates got a traditional 3 point play and UC was back in front. Wesley Johnson hit a pair of free throws to give the Orange the lead, but Bishop answered right back with a jumper. Then came the momentum swinging play of the game. After a Cashmere Wright missed runner in the lane, Lance Stephenson did this.
That brought 5/3 Arena to it's feet, and caused Jim Boeheim to call a timeout. Cash hit his 3 to make the score 49-43 and that's when the Orange buckled down. Syracuse got buckets from Rautins, Jackson and a free throw from Onuaku to pull within 1. Kris Joseph nailed the 3 for a 51-49 lead at 9:37. Steve Toyloy made 1 of 2, but Scoop Jardine answered with 2 of his own at the line. Cash scored off a jumper, but Onuaku got it right back. Rautins hit a pair at the line, and Joseph followed with a jumper that caused Mick to call timeout down 7 with 6:28 left. Ibby went aggressive to the rim and drew a foul, making both shots and cutting the lead to 59-54. Onuaku stripped Thomas on the next UC possession leading to a Rautins lay up, and after a Thomas miss, Joseph nailed the game deciding 3 for a 10 point lead with 4:42 left. The game ended with Syracuse scoring a basket off a Jackson tip in, and free throws made by Joseph (2), Rautins (2), and Jackson. Between the 12:25 mark, where Cash hit the 3, to the 7:09 mark, UC committed 7 fouls. Syracuse made 5 free throws in that span. Some of them looked a little touchy, but the fouls clearly flustered UC. The whistles seemed to kill UC's momentum. I'm not blaming this on the officials, I'm just pointing out that UC lost some of the fire, and Syracuse stomped the rest out. Just like elite teams do.

This was a good effort by UC. The bad part is, Syracuse's effort was a little better, and their better is on another level than UC. The Orange offense was on track the second half. Syracuse was 24-47 51%, 8-16, but only 15-26 at the free throw line. Syracuse had 28 boards, 8 offensive. Cincinnati shot 20-48 41%, 5-19, 9-18. UC had 28 rebounds, 9 offensive. But, UC had 11 turnovers to only 10 assists. 

We mentioned who lead Syracuse up top, so let's give credit to the UC men. Ibrahima Thomas had his best day in a UC uniform with 13-7. The 13 is a season high. Yancy Gates had 11-5. Lance went for 10-8. Cash had 7. Deonta Vaughn had 4 on 2-10 shooting, including 0-6 from deep. Bishop had 5-3-3, Larry Davis 3, and Steve Toyloy had 1 and that was the UC scoring day. 

The Bearcats have the week off before traveling to UConn next Saturday. The team needs a break to gear up for the crucial stretch run that's coming. At 14-9, the margin for error to make the NCAAs has gotten small. UC can only afford 1 or 2 slip ups, and they close at West Virginia, Villanova, at Georgetown. They need to lock wins down now. The game against Syracuse was a big missed opportunity because they had the Orange on the ropes midway through the second half. This team doesn't know how to finish. They also forget how to score. Any game where you go 6+ without scoring in one half, and 12 minutes with 5 points the next, that's a recipe for losing. 

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