The Syracuse Orange continued their stellar play Saturday and knocked off 13th ranked Marquette on the road, 86-79 in overtime.
The game was a tale of two teams seemingly heading in opposite directions, as the Orange have won four in a row and five of their last six games to finish the regular season in the Big East. In comparison, Marquette has dropped four games in a row, losing to Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh, and now Syracuse to end its regular season.
The Golden Eagles found themselves down by seven points with less than five minutes remaining in regulation and fought their way back to a one-point lead. The Orange's Rick Jackson was fouled with 13 seconds remaining and hit one of two foul shots to tie the game at 73.
Jerel McNeal then missed a last second three sending the game into overtime.
It was all Orange in the extra period as they pulled away and out-scored the Eagles 13-6. Marquette had their chances trailing by three points late. After a missed three by McNeal there was a tie-up for the ball and the Eagles retained possession.
Following the inbounds pass, McNeal ran into PG Jonny Flynn and stepped out-of-bounds turning the ball over to the Orange. Flynn and guard Andy Rautins went 4-4 from the free-throw line in the final seconds to ice the game for Syracuse.
Syracuse was led behind the dynamic play of PG Jonny Flynn who scored at will against the Marquette defense. The sophomore point guard finished the game with 22 points and six assists.
Reserve guard Andy Rautins came off the bench to score 20 points, and it was his key three point shot in overtime that gave Syracuse an 82-79 advantage that they would not relenquish.
PF Rick Jackson also had a huge game inside and bullied his way to 18 points and eight rebounds.
Marquette was led by SG Jerel McNeal who scored 25 points.
Guard Wesley Matthews also had a strong effort finishing with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
With the loss Marquette drops to 23-8, 12-6 Big East. The Eagles finally had their taste of the top teams in the league finishing the season with losses against four top 25 teams in a row.
With the win Syracuse improves to 23-8, 11-7 Big East and is peeking late after a tremulous earlier stretch in which they played seven out of 10 games against top 25 teams in the conference.
The Orange look to be back to full strength after injuries to C Arinze Onuaku and SG Andy Rautins earlier in the season.
The win in Milwaukee wasn't the only one for the Orange, as they beat out Marquette for the services of Dashonte Riley, a 6'11" center ranked No. 33 overall in the class of 2009 by ESPN.
Riley is an extremly good shot blocker and rebounder and will be a perfect fit in the middle of Syracuse's 2-3 zone. Whats even sweeter for Orange fans is his decommitment from Georgetown and his desire to play for Syracuse.
What's interesting about this signing is that Syracuse doesn't have an extra scholarship available right now. So I guess they know something we don't and I believe that is the pending departure of SG Eric Devendorf and/or God forbid PG Jonny Flynn.
Rumors are flying around that Devendorf, who is graduating in May, will make a stab at the NBA or more likely go over-seas to earn a living next year.
The Marquette game was packed with NBA scouts who came to see Flynn play and he has already stated he would go if he were a lottery pick.
I don't see him going in the lottery this year but if he comes back, Syracuse will be on the short list for winning the NCAA championship in 2010. With a stellar recruiting class coming in next year ,and the return of basically the top six or seven players, Syracuse would have probably their deepest team ever.
Up next for the Orange is the Seton Hall/South Florida winner in the second round of the Big East tournament which starts on Tuesday.
Since Syracuse finished sixth in the league, they will have a first round bye and will begin play on Wednesday.The Orange should be in good shape to continue their winning streak against either team because they already blew out Seton Hall, and beat South Florida on the road earlier in the season.