Sunday, January 17, 2010
Track Suit Triumph - SU Defeats West Virginia
The Syracuse Orange men's basketball team improved its record to 17-1 over the 9th ranked West Virginia Mountainers with a 72-71 victory on Saturday. As I'm sure you know by now, the Orange lead by as many as 10 points with a little more than a minute left, only to have West Virginia make a barrage of three pointers and almost steal a victory.
Here are some observations on the game.
* Apparently he's been doing it all year - but West Virginia's Bob Huggins coached the game wearing some sort of track suit. It was either a full on "mobster walking around town" get up or a warm up jacket and matching black pants, it definitely wasn't anything made by Armani, tha's for sure. I mean how hard is it to throw on a decent shirt and a sport coat? Even Mike Brey and his smug mock turtleneck look is better. Although, if he sticks with the look, maybe someday he can get his own bobblehead, just like his fashion idol Paulie Walnuts.
* Brandon Triche had an up and down game - he started by making a three, proceeded to struggle through big portions of the first half with turnover and WVA pressure, and then took the game over going down the stretch. Gotta give coach Boeheim a ton of credit for sticking with him -- it would have been easy to put Scoop in there and let Triche sit, but by the end of the game, he was comfortable handling the West Virginia pressure and it paid off big time.
* Wes Johnson was under the weather with a case of the flu and still gutted out a decent performance, ending up with 13 points, 5 rebounds and some important free throws down the stretch.
* When Johnson goes pro after this season, he's going to leave some big shoes to fill, but Kris Joseph is capable of filling them. His improvement from his freshman to sophomore year has been amazing. He's got the most explosive first step on the team and can go by any defender. The missing piece is the mid-range jumper, once he starts hitting that with regularity, watch out Big East. I can see him scoring 18-20 points per game next year.
* Speaking of Johnson, the missed free throw was huge, even if he didn't mean it.
* As this game illustrated, Syracuse's year-long free throw shooting woes very well could cost them at some point this year. They only made 61% of their freebies yesterday, which makes the end of close games more tense than an argument with Gilbert Arenas.
* I try not to bag on individual players too much - but man oh man Arinze Onuaku has to play better for this team to reach its full potential. I didn't like the way he moved his feet yesterday. He fell asleep in the zone a couple of times and just flat out didn't assert himself. West Virginia is a smaller, quicker team, so the match up wasn't ideal, but the big fella just has to get a little meaner -and be more active. I thought Rick Jackson was much more effective.
* I was really pleased with the way the SU guards handled themselves. West Virginia's defensive style is to play tight, physical defense on the ball and overplay the wings. The want to exert maximum pressure on the ball to force turnovers. Brandon Triche is a freshman and Andy Rautins isn't known for taking defenders off the dribble. On paper, this was a tough match up. Even though they had 19 turnovers, many were charges, and at the end of the day, Rautins, Triche and Jardine made enough plays to get a win in a hostile environment. A game like this will better prepare them for March.
* Mookie Jones didn't get much floor time, but as again, this game wasn't a good match up for his skill set. Against opponents that play zone, or don't over play the way West Virginia did, he'll be an asset, which he proved in the Rutgers game.
* After a little bit of a mini-funk, Andy Rautins was Billy Fucillo HUGE in this one. His stat line of 12 points, 7 rebounds and 1 assist look average, but when Syracuse needed plays, especially trailing early in the second half, Rautins was taking, and making, very tough shots.
* West Virginia's Joe Mazzulla is annoying. He complained after every call against him, harrassed and chased SU guards when he was in the game and was a general pest. His best move was at the end of the game when he grabbed Rick Jackson and pulled him down on top of him to make it look like a charge. It was a slick bit of trickeration, and given the fact that the officiating was less than consistent, I'm shocked they got the call right. So yeah, this idiot is no fan of Joe Mazzulla - of course if he wore Orange I'd love him and let every one else complain.
Next up, Notre Dame on Big Monday. Here's hoping Wes is feeling better - this one should be fun. And while Huggins' track suit was bad - it was still better than this.