Without Devo, Orange Outwits Tigers in Memphis With Trademark Zone

Larry RulisonContributor IDecember 20, 2008

With starting shooting guard Eric Devendorf out after being suspended indefinitely, Syracuse beat Memphis 72-65 Saturday night, in Memphis.

Sophomore Rick Jackson emerged as a starter who will likely be a key to the Orange season this year, especially when Big East play starts. Jackson had 14.

But with Devendorf out, point guard Jonny Flynn became the leader he needs to be this year if the Orange want to make the Final Four—or better. Flynn scored 24 points even though his participation was a game-time decision because of a hip injury.

Memphis is a highly-flawed team. Syracuse's trademark 2-3 zone kept the athletic Tigers out of the paint and forced them to shoot three-pointers. They aren't a very good shooting team, so this defensive strategy was key for the 'Cuse, which led at the half by two points and only gave up the lead briefly in the second half.

This is a huge win for the Orange. First, they are now 11-1 even before conference play, and they have beaten Florida, Kansas, Virginia and now Memphis. Even with just an average Big East season they are a sure-fire NCAA team. There is no way the 'Cuse will miss the tourney this year. They could finish under .500 in Big East play and they would still be a lock.

So who to thank? Thanks Paul Harris. He hit a huge three-pointer with Memphis trying to make a comeback, and that is not Harris' game. But he knocked it down with about three minutes left and the Tigers trying to rally. It was a huge blow to the team that lost to Kansas in last year's title game.

Oh, and the defending champs? Syracuse beat them too.