Stephen Colbert Is Afraid of Grizzly Bears, Syracuse Is Not
Other appropriate titles for this recap:
"Grizzly Bears No Longer on Endangered Species List, so Syracuse Kills a Team of Them"
"Syracuse Beats Oakland University, but not of Oakland, CA, but from Rochester, but not Rochester NY, but Rochester, MI, which is in Oakland County, which is right outside of Detroit."
"Lake Effect Snow Buries City of Syracuse & Oakland University Basketball Team."
Ok, the wit ends here.
The Orange, from the opening tip, took it to the Golden Grizzlies in a game that had SU fans worried that this could be a trap game. The 'Cuse travels to Kansas City to take part in the final two rounds of the CBE classic Monday.
Jim Boeheim's squad finally didn't play down to its competition, a problem that has plagued the Orange for the last two-plus years. Now, Oakland shouldn't rank below Syracuse too far in terms of level of competition; the Grizzlies are considered to be the favorites in the Summit League.
During the first two possessions on both offense and defense, SU showed OU what the Grizzlies would be in for the entire night. Defensively, the 'Cuse forced Oakland into two tough shots and both wouldn't find the bottom of the night.
And after each miss, Syracuse took the ball straight down court and established its inside-outside game that would dominate the first half. Paul Harris took a pass from Jonny Flynn and turned into a layup. On the second possession, Harris found Eric Devendorf for a three-pointer.
The Orange continued to force Oakland to play the 'Cuse's game and jumped out to a 11-2 lead.
The Orange's defensive efficiency for the first half was an outstanding 66.7 (28 points allowed in 42 possessions). To put that in perspective, during the 2008 season, Syracuse's defensive efficiency was about 94. To play this well defensively against a team like Oakland that has several pretty adept scorers.
Jonathon Jones is the front-runner for Summit League Player of the Year while Keith Benson and Erik Kangas are also both very solid players. But the Orange was able to get Benson in foul trouble early, and could focus on shutting down Jones and Kangas.
SU's strength lies with its guard play and super sophomore Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf didn't disappoint. Both stuck to Jones and Kangas pretty well, forcing them into 10-of-25 shooting in the first half.
On the other end of the floor, OU's backcourt just couldn't keep up with the ultra-talent Flynn, Devendorf, and long range marksman Andy Rautins.
Flynn showed why many college basketball pundits picked him to some form of an All-American team. The Co-Big East Rookie of the Year scored 12 points in the first half to lead the Orange. The rest of the SU attack was as balanced as could be.
And that's been the theme and will continue to be the theme all year.
Seven of the eight members of the Orange that saw minutes in the first half scored at least three points and the eighth member, Kristof Ongenaet is mainly a defensive specialist that is not expected to score.
The 'Cuse knocked down five-of-11 three-point attempts and finally converted from the free throw line, making 77.8 percent of its shots in the first half.
The second half was much of the same. Oakland improved shooting the ball while Syracuse's offensive attack slowed down, but the lead never dropped to single digits, and SU was generally on cruise control for the entire second frame.
The Orange continued to distribute the ball well among its nine deep rotation. Five of Jim Boeheim's players finished in double-digits. Two of those five players, freshman Kris Joseph and center Arinze Onuaku finished perfect from the field (6 for 6 and 5 for 5 respectively).
With each game, Joseph is looking more and more like a freshman that will legitimately help out the 'Cuse in Big East play. He's a lanky small forward who can handle the ball like a point guard but can body up against a power forward if he's asked to. Joseph has shown a nice long range jumper, but also a strong ability to finish around the basket.
The well-balanced Syracuse attack extended pass the scoring column. Five Orange men recorded at least five rebounds, including nine by both 6'4'' Paul Harris and backup center Rick Jackson. The sophomore big man saw a nice chunk of minutes after Arinze Onuaku picked up his fourth foul early in the second half.
SU also had three players record at least four assists and three forwards blocked three shots each. Unfortunately for the Orange, the team also shared the turnover bug.
Seven different players had multiple turnovers and the 'Cuse finished with 20 for the game. Through three games, SU is averaging 17 turnovers per game and has a turnover percentage of almost 25 percent. That number is so bad it would rank in the 300s last year.
The 'Cuse will take its balanced attack west on Monday to take on Florida in the semifinals of the CBE Classic. The winner will get the winner of Kansas and Washington.
For one last random tidbit, Syracuse jumped from around 260th in the RPI to 87th with the win.
Stephen Colbert, this win was for you.
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