Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Orange Beats EMU, Goes to 13-0

Jerami Grant said he wasn't especially excited for his first start of the season but ha made the most of it. After DaJuan Coleman was ruled out with a leg injury prior to Syracuse's game with Eastern Michigan University, Grant got the call and came out on fire hitting his first five shots and scoring 12 first half points in a 70-48 win.

"It was whatever," Grant said with a grin about getting the start. "I honestly wasn't extremely excited like you probably think but, it was good for us."

#2 Syracuse (13-0) closed out the non-conference portion of the schedule and the 2013 year with a 22 point blow-out at home against the Eastern Michigan Eagles (7-5) Tuesday afternoon.

Rakeem Christmas had his best offensive performance wearing orange with a career high 15 points (three rebounds, two blocks), Trevor Cooney scored ten ( 2-5 on threes, two steals) and CJ Fair had 13 (eight rebounds, four assists, two blocks).

The Eagles, coached by former SU assistant Rob Murphy, struggled to get anything going against Syracuse's long, active zone throughout the game. They combined to shoot 17-54 from the field (3percent) and 7-28 from three (25percent. Glenn Bryant was the games leading scorer with 19 points on 8-11 shooting (eight rebounds). Ray Lee added 12 (4-5 on threes) as the only Eastern Michigan players to score in double figures.

"They have a lot of size, great athleticism," Murphy said. "Their playing at a high level right now. To me Tyler Ennis has been key, unbelievable at getting guys involved, understanding when to score, how to score."

To Murphy's point, Ennis didn't do anything in the scoring column (zero points, 0-4) but, didn't need to, setting the table early and often for the Orange. He had six first half assists including a beautiful behind the back pass to hit a streaking Grant on a fast-break. He finished the game with nine assists, five rebounds and three steals.

"You can not score and be a very productive, good player," Boeheim said. "I'm not concerned about his scoring, he doesn't score a lot against zones. He gets in the lane and makes plays."

Starting the season 12-0 the lone area one could nit-pick the Orange on would be their slow starts, perfectly embodied by the 18 point deficit Syracuse found itself in early Saturday against Villanova. Grant wasn't going to wait in game 13; he got the New Years Eve party started early for Syracuse. After playing the sixth man role in the first 12 games, Grant injected instant energy to the starting lineup scoring nine points in the first five minutes, most by way of  a tough inside game, fighting for position and rebounds. He finished the game with 15 points (5-7 from field) and eight boards.

"Jerami Grant won the game in the first five minutes of the game," Boeheim said. "He got into the lane and made some really good ball movement."

Most of the second half the Orange did what a top ranked and favored team should do: played solid defense, ran the offense to get good looks and routinely used size and athleticism to overpower the opponent, represented by the 40-18 beating SU gave the Eagles on points in the paint.

"We just wanted to come out and be aggressive," Grant said. "We're feeling good, we played a lot of tough opponents already. Going into the ACC we know its going to be tough but I feel like we're ready for it."

Next up: #2 Syracuse (13-0) welcomes the University of Miami (8-5) to the Dome Saturday 4th at 2:00pm for its first game of ACC play

Game Notes:

- The win extended Syracuse's home non-conference winning streak to 51 games.
- Syracuse is one of seven unbeaten teams in Division I
Syracuse had 10 steals, essentially tying its ACC leading average (10.1) a complete two steals over second place Florida State (8.1) on that list
- DaJuan Coleman is going through "treatments" (per Jim Boeheim) and will be assessed day-to-day

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Syracuse Rallies for Big Victory in Battle of Unbeatens

Syracuse Players warming up before game

Story and photo by: Donato DiRenzo II

   Most basketball aficionados and analysts will tell you, the best way to beat a good zone defense is to make threes. And lots of them. Villanova did just that out of the gate hitting five in just over eight minutes on route to an early 18 point lead over Syracuse on Saturday in the Carrier Dome. Unfortunately for head coach Jay Wright and his team, they would make only five more the remaining 32 minutes of play as No. 2 Syracuse (12-0) rallied back to a resounding 78-62 win over long-time Big East rival and previously unbeaten No. 8 Villanova (11-1).

   Trevor Cooney lead a quartet of Orange players who scored in double figures with a team high 21 points (5-8 on threes, 6-6 on free throws) along with three steals, three rebounds and two assists. Tyler Ennis scored 20 points (8-11 on free throws), C.J. Fair had 17 points (5-6 on free throws, six rebounds) and Jerami Grant contributed 11 points (7-8 on free throws, six rebounds) for a Syracuse team that combined to shoot a glowing 82. percent (29-35) on its free throws; a noteworthy day for a team that's historically struggled from the charity stripe.

   “You gotta come out ready to play,” Cooney said. “You can't come out flat like that but we were lucky enough to get big stops and get back into the game.”

   Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim credited the Wildcats for being a great team but did take a couple not-so-subtle shots at what he seemed to think was more luck than skill.

   “They got off to a great start, part of it was they made four really hard threes,” Boeheim said. “They really didn’t get a lot to look at the last ten minutes of the first half, they shoulda had 31 at the break, which is six points in the last ten minutes. It's one thing to bank it but, when you bank a one-hander off an out of bounds, that's really to believe.”

   To which Wright jokingly fired back that Boeheim is just a “jerk” for complaining about a couple lucky shots in the wake of a 16 point victory.

   The final score doesn’t truly reflect the intensity and level of competition that was on display for a game that felt more like a Big East conference battle than a non-conference game in December. After Villanova's hot start Syracuse took the lead with 4:52 left in the first half on an Ennis layup to complete a 15-0 run of its own. The teams then traded baskets but, the Orange wouldn't trail again.
   The Wildcats cut the lead to three (56-53) after James Bell (25 points, five rebounds) hit his fifth three pointer of the afternoon and Daniel Ochefu (three points, five rebounds) sank one of two free throws with 7:02 remaining. It was the closest Villanova would get as Syracuse finished on a 22-9 run (with the benefit of late game fouls/free throws) ending what was a dramatic game in somewhat anti-climactic fashion.

   Fair admitted the thought of getting blown out at home crossed their minds but, a couple of easy baskets and defensive stops got the team going.

   “I think were coming around,” Fair said. “We're not where we want to be but we've won some tough games, we've shown were a fighting team.”

   Syracuse will look to close out the non-conference portion of their schedule on the 31st at 3pm when it welcomes former SU assistant Rob Murphy and his Eastern Michigan team to the Dome.

Game Notes:

  • Syracuse leads all-time series 39-32
  • Syracuse is now one of eight unbeaten Division I teams left
  • The announced attendance of 28,135 was the largest on campus crowd this year
  • Syracuse dominated points in the paint 27-10
  • Sibling rivalry was on display as Tyler Ennis's brother Dylan plays for the Wildcats

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The contest before the Rose Bowl -- the 58th Annual Lawry's Beef Bowl

By Rilwan Ameen - Beverly Hills, California - In traditional pep rally style, the staff of Lawry’s Prime Rib restaurant and members of Temple City HS marching band welcomed the Rose Bowl participants, the Michigan State Spartans and Stanford Cardinal to raucous ovations.

And there I stood each time over the course of the weekend, transfixed by the brigade that awaited the 2013 Big Ten and Pac-12 champions upon their individual arrivals.

The Stanford Cardinal welcomed at Lawry's
On Friday, there it was: the 58th annual Lawry's Beef Bowl was underway as a police escort led the Spartans team bus through the streets of Beverly Hills.

The Lawry's Beef Bowl has been college football's annual tradition prior to every Rose Bowl game since 1957; where both participating teams compete in some light-hearted fun and indulge themselves in some prime rib eating.

B1G meets Pac-12

As Head Coach Mark Dantonio departed the bus first, the Spartans were greeted to tunes from the Michigan State marching band and a festive red carpet welcome.

I was one of a crowd of media members MSU Head Coach Mark Dantonio addressed
Dantonio and his players seemed pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the moment as they took it in stride (with many MSU players even recording their welcome as they walked down the red carpet).

"To walk down that red carpet as we walked in with all the people, you know I had to take a step back because I wasn't sure who was supposed to go first there," Dantonio said. "We're just excited to be here."

Waiting from the signal from the photog to head to the media area where players and coaches would answer questions about the event, I watched in awe as the MSU fight song blared on while players and staff exited the buses one-by-one heading inside to Lawry's for their first test prior to the 'grandaddy of them all', the 100th Rose Bowl game on New Year's Day.

MSU emblem on Police motorcycle

Rushing inside to the horde of media all ready for the Spartan contingent, I had my general list of questions that I had prepared -- ranging from who can eat the most prime rib on the team?, to describe the feeling coming from cold East Lansing to 80-degree Pasadena and does the success of the season come into perspective being honored at an event like this?

Well Senior offensive lineman, Center Travis Jackson broke down the competition amongst his teammates, thus ending all of my "preparedness" with one statement. 

"I got a top five for the beef bowl today," Jackson said.

"We have the four meat squad members and then we have Shawn Kamm (said to have eaten a team-high 79 wings at last year's Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl), so I wanted to profile those guys for you."

After describing attributes of his teammates eating abilities from girth and endurance to great shoulders and length; when asked about where he was in the mix, Jackson joked --

"I'm a supporter, you know I'm like these guys press guy."

Jackson's teammate Junior Linebacker Taiwan Jones addresses the media
Sophomore Offensive Lineman Jack Allen carved the first piece of beef at the Lawry's Beef Bowl, selecting Coach Dantonio to be awarded with the opening plate.

The favored Kamm ended up eating the most on the Spartans with five plates of prime rib.

The friendly competitive eating continued on Saturday afternoon as the Stanford Cardinal made their way to Lawry's looking to one-up the Spartans total at the beef bowl.

As the Rose Bowl defending champions, Stanford Head Coach David Shaw put the fun nature of the event into perspective.

"After last year's beef bowl we just had one individual we had to worry about the next day Josh Garnett," said Shaw.

Garnett was Stanford's leading beef eater last year and proclaimed upon entering Lawry's "the champ is here."

Temple City HS marching band playing to the tunes of both teams fight song

Legend has it, that traditionally whoever wins the Beef Bowl competition usually wins the Rose Bowl game just days later -- at about a 70 percent clip (according to Lawry's officials the trend has occurred 39 times in the history of the event). Stanford ended up winning the Beef Bowl but lost the big game to Michigan State - a reversal of past history!

Site of the 100th Rose Bowl Game

As for my results in the beef bowl, I was able to consume a grand total of two pieces of beef (the record is 8). Needless to say Southern California tradition, bowl football and prime rib can make for quite the contest and lasting memories to along with it.

Myself with ESPNLA.com's Arash Markazi

Friday, December 20, 2013

SU Turns Close Game into Rout

By: Donato DiRenzo II

     The final score rarely tells the whole story, and Friday night's 75-54 final at the Carrier Dome left a lot untold. The Syracuse Orange (11-0) beat High Point University (3-7) by 21 but, did trail for a moment in the second half. There was no mystery in Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim's mind as to what made the difference.

     “We didn't play defense, aggressively,” Boeheim said. “Our offense was really good in the first half, but were up three [at the half] because our defense wasn't there.”

     Coming off arguably his worst performance of his career (zero points missing all three of the shots he took against St. John's) Trevor Cooney regained his touch scoring a game high 17 points (5-6 on three's).
     “I wasn't determined to put up a lot of shots, just be a better mover off the ball,” Cooney said. “Against St. John's I didn't do a good job of running or running in transition or coming off of screens and today I did a lot better job of that.”

     C.J. Fair scored 15 (five rebounds, two steals) to help lead a Syracuse offense that was rolling for most of the night, shooting over 53 percent from both the field and three point land.

     For all the success the Orange offense had, SU struggled early on the defensive end allowing HPU to shoot 50 percent from both the field and on threes. Credit the Panthers for forcing the Syracuse zone to work hard, patiently moving the ball from side to side prodding the zone.

     High Point seemed intent on draining as much of the shot clock as possible on offense, at times not even beginning to run a play until 10 seconds were left and did get bailed out by a couple of desperation shots that went in at the buzzer. The Panthers trailed by three at the half, 37-34.

     The Orange was down 40-39 after a Devante Wallace (10 points, two rebounds) jumper with 16:39 left in the second half. It was the last the Panthers would see of the lead as Baye Moussa Keita quickly answered with an offensive rebound put-back. It was the next sequence of plays that seemed to shift the momentum back to the home team for good.

     With just under 16 minutes to play freshman Tyler Ennis (10 points, nine assists, five steals, four rebounds) converted a layup in transition, quickly stole the ensuing inbound pass and after a miss, collected his offensive rebound and scored another easy layup. It was the beginning of a 28-3 run by Syracuse over the next 10+ minutes of play that ended any thought of a High Point upset.

     The Orange locked down defensively holding the Panthers to 20 points in the second half on 35 percent shooting (25 percent on threes) and forcing them into 15 turnovers (19 for the game). The Orange finished the game with 12 steals, six blocks and +9 in the turnover margin leading to 27 points off turnovers for the Orange to only four for the Panthers . The 12 steals are almost two more than Syracuse's ACC leading average (10.2).

`     “It was our defense our defense, it was ok at the beginning of the game then we kinda slacked off a little bit,” Cooney said. “Once we picked our defense up we were able to go on a nice little run.”

     Jerami Grant and Keita both continued their solid play off the bench. Grant scored 10 points in 17 minutes (three rebounds, one block) while Keita added seven points, four rebounds, two steals and a block in 19 minutes. Grant went out with an apparent sprained ankle after he slipped in the lane in the second half but returned to the bench and said later he was OK.

     Wallace was the only High Point player to score in double figures. The Panthers leading scorer, John Brown, was held to just six points on 3-11 shooting but chipped in six rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Also contributing was Cliff Cornish (six points, four rebounds), Dejuan McGaughy (seven points, 15 minutes) and Lorenzo Cugini (seven points, two assists).

     “It's been a long two and a half, three months already,” Boeheim said. “I think we need the break now, I think it'll be good for us. There's a lot of things we can still work on when we get back up here.”

Next Up:
#2 Syracuse plays its next game against old Big East foe, Villanova next Saturday the 28th at 2:00 p.m. in the Carrier Dome.

Game Notes:

  • This was the first game High Point University has played in the state of New York
  • Syracuse is one of 12 unbeaten Division I teams left
  • Syracuse's non-conference home winning streak improved to 48
  • The Orange dominated the points in paint 38-18

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Proud to be Orange

By Pete Sweeney SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center) - After about twenty minutes ticked by in Syracuse Head Coach Scott Shafer’s Texas Bowl press conference last Friday, a reporter in one of the first few rows finally had the floor.

“Does it feel strange at all, still talking about—“

And with that, he was cut off.

“This is my guy right here.” Coach Shafer said. “You’re a Syracuse guy, right?”

The reporter confirmed and Coach Shafer proudly pumped his fist in the air.

“Go Orange baby!”

It’s been five years since Scott Shafer arrived on the Syracuse campus. Then, it was 2009 and the challenge he faced was daunting—a defense that ranked 101 in the nation—one that he was expected to turn around. But as intimidating a task as that seemed, Shafer never balked. He rose up to the challenge with positivity, enthusiasm, energy, and a deep sense of pride.

 Today, as Syracuse’s head coach, all of those same qualities he brought to the table originally have not waned. If anything, they seem to have only amplified.

            As there are no major league professional teams in the area, members of the Syracuse community collectively share a strong connection with the university’s athletic programs, especially basketball and football.

On the basketball end of things, there’s Jim Boeheim, someone that strong connection has made famous in this city and across the sports world. For more than 50 years, starting as a player and for the last 37 years as head coach, Boeheim has bled Syracuse Orange, a quality you can already tell Shafer shares in year one at the helm.  

“[The job has] been everything I expected and everything I signed up for,” Shafer said at the press conference.  “I love the job. I really do. I can’t believe I have had the opportunity to coach at Syracuse. Such a great institution.”

 Boeheim provides someone for Coach Shafer to look up to. The basketball legacy of more than 900 wins, four Final Four appearances, and a national championship paints a clear picture of what Shafer strives for.

“We’ve got a great blueprint watching Jim Boeheim build that program,” Shafer said. “I’m so lucky to have somebody like that to just watch, look, read about, ask questions about what it’s going to take to try to get our football program to some sort of level just close to what he’s done. Scratch the surface, I’d be happy.”

As far as beginnings go, Shafer started off in a similar fashion to Boeheim. Both men began as assistants who helped to turn their programs around by the time it was their turn to be a head coach.

In Boeheim’s first season as head coach, he took Syracuse to the NCAA tournament and lost to Charlotte in the Sweet Sixteen.

            In Shafer’s first season, he has done something a lot of fans and media did not think was possible before the season began—he has reached a bowl game.

            On December 27, Shafer’s team will face off against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Reliant Stadium in Houston for the Texas Bowl Championship. Beating Minnesota would clinch a winning season for the Orange, something Shafer hopes to make a precedent for years to come.

 By having a chance to bring a trophy back to Syracuse, Shafer has earned the opportunity to take that first step of many that it will take to reach the likes of Jim Boeheim. 

But if you’re going to climb the mountain, you’ve got to start somewhere.            

Women's Soccer: Next Year Could Not Come Soon Enough

Pete Sweeney SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center) - The Florida State Women’s Soccer team arrived in Syracuse on October 10th ranked as third best team in the country. The Seminoles boasted a record of eleven wins, no losses and three ties. The ACC Tournament was already marked in their game calendar.

            The Orange was in a very different position. At 5-7-1 with just six games to play, the team needed to win just about every game it had left.

            For 94 minutes, Florida State and Syracuse played scoreless soccer. But in the 95th minute, Florida State midfielder Dagny Brynjarsdottir headed the game-winning goal past Orange goalie Brittany Anghel. There would be no more scoring the rest of the game.

            For Florida State, it was just another win on an impressive season’s resume. But for Syracuse, this game was a microcosm of its season.

            Three other times during the year, Syracuse played teams ranked 10th or better and lost by a score of 1-0. The team could play with the best, but it could not beat the best. Syracuse wasn’t winning in the ACC, but it was proving that it belonged in the ACC. There’s no one in the conference who can deny that.

            “After going through a season, I did talk to some other coaches in the ACC [and] asked for their impressions of the team,” Head Coach Phil Wheddon said. “And the underlying factor from every coach is they knew it was going to be a very, very difficult game.”

            While Syracuse finished the year 7-11-1 and missed the playoffs, the campaign was important in building the Orange’s identity moving forward into next season. This year, opposing teams saw the Orange as a tough game on the schedule. But the women who are returning want more. That’s why it’s December and you can find players in the gym every day, preparing for a first whistle that won’t come for another eight months.

“We will be faster, more athletic, more skillful,” Wheddon said. “The group that’s here training right now wants this so badly. We have soccer junkies that want to play. They want to take care of all their schoolwork so they can play. We’re definitely in the ACC Tournament [next year] for sure.”

To follow up on his bold statement, Wheddon and his staff will need to find an ample replacement for his five departing seniors, including four-year starting goaltender and team leader Brittany Anghel. This could make for a tall task in the ACC.

“The goalkeepers that we have coming in are going to have to catch up to speed very very quickly,” said Wheddon. “We’re going to have some issues in the goal for sure. You are going to have some growing pains. Brittany had those during her first season. The only problem is, in the ACC those growing pains can really cost you.”

Still, with all of the challenges that lie ahead, Wheddon couldn’t be more enthusiastic for what next year will bring.  He and his staff have worked diligently to bring in a highly-talented recruiting class and he believes that this team will be unlike any other before it.

“We will have, without a doubt, the best team that Syracuse has ever had.”

Does someone have a pen? Wheddon thinks it’s time to mark the ACC tournament in his team’s game calendar.

10 Questions With Coach Wheddonhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rm5KCHY6NpU

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Syracuse Holds on to Beat St. John's, 68-63

By Pete Sweeney NEW YORK (Newhouse Sports Media Center) - Michael Gbinije sat on the court with the ball in his grasp as he and Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim desperately yelled to the referees for a timeout. The timeout was not granted and Red Storm players swarmed Gbinije.

          When the whistle finally blew, the call was jump ball, possession: St. John’s. The Madison Square Garden roof was about to fly off.

The Red Storm, up 60-58 on the Orange, held a two-point lead with just five minutes and 27 seconds to play. But as St. John’s fans were in a frenzy and the Orange back-pedaled to get back on defense, senior Baye Keita turned to all four of his teammates, opened his hands palm down, and gestured for his players to relax. He still felt like his team was in control.

Two defensive stops and four Tyler Ennis points later and the Orange was up for good.

“He’s a very, very smart player,” Boeheim said of Ennis after the game. “As a freshman point guard, he’s playing better than anybody that I’ve ever had.”

Ennis, due in main part to a tremendous first half in which he scored a team-high 15 points, finished with a share of the game-high, 21. CJ Fair, who scored four critical points down the final five-minute stretch after the Orange took back the lead, also finished with 21.

“It’s all about getting in the right position [and] taking your time; you don’t want to rush things,” Fair said. “Tyler [Ennis] was able to get me the ball in good positions and I was able to operate from there.”

St. John’s came into game with a 6-2 record and even in the loss, proved that it is capable of competing with the Orange. Jim Boeheim credited the Red Storm for a strong effort at his post-game press conference.
            “I think St. John’s is a much improved team from what I’ve seen,” he said. “They’re more mature, there are more veterans. I think they’ve got really good players and I think they’re going to have a good year.”
              Up until the start of the second half, an Orange victory seemed like a foregone conclusion. Syracuse owned a 39-27 lead heading into the locker room for the break.
              “It almost seemed like it was deer in the headlights in the first half,” Red Storm Head Coach Steve Lavin said after the game.
                St. John’s leading scorer D’Angelo Harrison had a lot to do with his team’s second half resurgence. Following just a three-point performance in the first half, Harrison scored the first seven points in the second half as part of an 11-5 run to get the Red Storm back in the game. He finished with 21.
              “We didn’t play in the first half and then came out and played with a different attitude,” Harrison said. “We outscored [Syracuse] in the second half.”
                Harrison was just as good on the defensive side of the ball. He locked down Trevor Cooney, who came into the game averaging 15.3 points per game for the Orange. Cooney only shot three times, all three-point attempts, and missed them all.
                 Fortunately for the Orange, Jerami Grant was able to pick up Cooney’s slack. He finished the game with 14 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and a block that sealed the game for the Orange with 33 seconds remaining.
                "That was some play," Boeheim said of the block. "He had a couple of highlight plays today."

Next Game
#2 Syracuse plays its next game against High Point this Friday, back home at the Carrier Dome. Game time is 7:00 p.m.

Game Notes
  • Syracuse improves its record to 10-0. Coming into the game, Syracuse was one of just 14 teams that remain undefeated in NCAA Division I basketball.
  • This was the 88th matchup between St. John's and Syracuse. With the win, Syracuse now leads the series, 51-37.
  • Syracuse's largest lead was 14 points with six seconds to go in the first half.
  • CJ Fair had two steals in tonight's game. He has recorded at least one steal in all but one game this season (Minnesota).
  • Trevor Cooney was held to zero points for the the first time in his college career when playing 20 minutes or more.
  • Syracuse only attempted eight three-point shots tonight, making just one. The only game this season where the Orange attempted fewer threes was St. Francis (six).
  • The teams matched in bench scoring. Each team's bench finished with 14 points.
  • The score was tied seven times during the game and the lead changed four times.
  • Jim Boeheim likes playing at MSG and would like to see Syracuse continue to play in New York in the future. He said "We have a lot of Syracuse fans down here that live in this area. I think we're in a tournament next year here...We like coming here. We played a lot of games at Madison Square Garden. It's a great place for college basketball...I thought both groups of fans were into it. I just thought it was a great game at the Garden and that's why we signed up to play in it. I knew it would be."

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Syracuse 93, Binghamton 65

Photo by Matt Dowell

By Pete Sweeney SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center) - Binghamton (2-7) arrived at the Carrier Dome Saturday night as tremendous underdogs, never expected to have a chance to beat No. 4 ranked Syracuse (9-0). But the Bearcats built an 11-3 advantage early and four minutes and 34 seconds into the game, the time of the first TV timeout, they still led the Orange, 11-6.

It became apparent that Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim had seen enough. The Orange came out from the break in a full-court press that would lead to six Binghamton turnovers as part of an 18-0 run for Syracuse.

“We did a good job in the full court press for a few minutes there and got the game going in the right direction,” Boeheim said at the post-game press conference.

The press immediately resulted in two steals and five quick points for Trevor Cooney, who finished with 17, including five three-balls in nine attempts from behind the arc.

“I was just able to find open spots,” Cooney said.    

It took C.J. Fair a while to get going, but he wound leading the team with 19 points of his own.

“I came out and shot two airballs,” Fair said. “But once I saw some shots go in, I got in a rhythm.”

A game that was competitive for the first five minutes quickly became highly noncompetitive (Syracuse once led by as many as 37 points), but Boeheim didn’t mind as this gave him an opportunity to give his younger players a chance to see some in-game action. The future of the Orange—freshmen B.J. Johnson, Tyler Roberson, and Ron Patterson all saw at least 14 minutes each.

“We need to play these freshmen even if it’s in a late game situation,” Boeheim said. “Show them some tape of what they do. It’s good to get them that kind of experience.”

Sophomore Jordan Reed was the only player who seemed to get anything going for Binghamton. He led both teams in scoring, finishing with 26 points and seven rebounds.

DaJuan Coleman put up another solid effort for the Orange, recording a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds).

Syracuse won’t play its next game until next Sunday, December 15. The Orange squares off against St. John’s in Madison Square Garden at 12 p.m.

Syracuse, right now ranked fourth in the country, will in all likelihood move up to #2 in the national rankings. Syracuse stayed perfect (9-0) while #1 Michigan State lost to the North Carolina on Wednesday and #3 Kentucky lost to Baylor on Friday. #2 Arizona, who also stayed perfect (10-0), should be the new top-ranked team.

Game Notes
·         This was the fifth meeting of Syracuse and Binghamton, the last of which before Saturday night.was in 2004. Syracuse now leads the series, 5-0.

·         Lazarus Sims, who played at Syracuse from 1991 to 1996, returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach for the Bearcats. “He’s one of the great players we’ve had here, one of the best point guards, certainly the smartest point guard that we’ve ever had here, and he loves the game,"Boeheim said. "He knows the game, and I just think he’ll be a great coach, I really do.”

·         Binghamton’s starting lineup contains four freshmen and one sophomore (the game’s leading scorer, Jordan Reed).

·         The full-court press Syracuse used throughout the game caused 18 Binghamton turnovers (12 steals and 6 blocks).

·       Ten players scored for the Orange and its bench finished with 38 points.

·         Syracuse took 36 shots from behind the three-point line, more than any other game this year. Syracuse finished the game 13/36 (36.1%).


A View from the Baseline: A Photographer's Perspective

by Matt Dowell

The squeaking of sneakers, the loud "C'MON, GUYS! LET'S GO!" bark from Trevor Cooney, the sarcastic, catty banter between the referees and the coaches.

These are all things you can't truly grasp from way up in the stands.

I'm a Broadcast and Digital Journalism student at Newhouse, but tonight I took on a new opportunity of being a photographer for the first time for the Syracuse-Binghamton men's basketball game in the Carrier Dome.

Sitting right on the baseline, I didn't feel like I was a spectator like I do when I go watch these games casually with my friends. I felt like I was in the world of these two basketball teams.
Cooney inbounds the ball to his Orange teammates

I got to see the sweat, the anger, the tenacity, right up close. The passion of Trevor Cooney, the incredible form of a CJ Fair jump shot, and the Hulk-like physicality of DaJuan Coleman.

And I got to capture it all in still photographs, something I'm also not used to.

Being a broadcast student, I'm used to telling stories with my voice and by being in front of the camera. But, photography created a new challenge.

I had to tell a story with pictures that have no movement, no voice-overs, and no stand-ups.

They are just there and I wanted the pictures I captured to create a feeling of the overall atmosphere of the game which ended up being complete domination by the Orange.

Another challenge of dealing with a still-camera instead of one that records video is that I only get one shot to capture a moment.

If I miss a dunk or a foul or an injury, that moment is gone. I didn't have video that I could work with and edit afterwards, something that is essential in the broadcasting world.

It was a one and done kind of situation.  Miss an epic moment of the game, too bad. It's gone. Nothing you can do about it.
 Coleman dunks as part of his double-double for the night

You have to be on your game and ready to snap every moment for 2 hours to get those great shots people love to see and remember.

It was an eye-opening experience. I had never thought of how hard it is to capture these moments. To have the perfect timing, perfect framing, and perfect focus.

In this day in age of technology, pictures are everywhere. We see them 24/7 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it.

I can speak for myself when I say that I've become numb to the fact that photography is still an art form because we are around it so much in our everyday lives. But tonight showed me just how much technique and skill is required to do something like this.

Going into tonight's game, I didn't think it would be that hard. I told myself, "I'm just gonna sit on the baseline and snap some pictures and it'll be easy."

Boy, was I wrong. It's an art. It's a talent. And the whole experience was exhilarating.

CJ Fair dunks as part of his 19 point tally for the night
To photographers everywhere, I have a new found respect for you and the craft that you love, especially the ones I got to share the baseline with.

Thanks for teaching me about something I thought I already knew, but clearly had no idea what I was talking about.

Last minute advice for first time photographers: Bring a mini chair to the game. My back is killing me. 

Check out all of my pictures from tonight's game and press conference below!

Created with flickr slideshow.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Syracuse Pulls Away from Indiana, 69-52

Jim Boeheim came into his team’s showdown with the Indiana Hoosiers questioning its defense so far this year. He referred to Syracuse’s win at the Maui Invitational as “an offensive trip,” laced with about as much derision as a coach can summon for a winning team. But by the end of the Orange’s suffocating 69-52 victory, he was left with nothing but the faintest hint of a smile.

Just like last year’s NCAA Tournament game, the Hoosiers (6-2) couldn’t crack the 2-3 zone for large stretches of the night. It struggled to penetrate against the perimeter length of the Orange (8-0) and when it finally broke through, quick hands — Trevor Cooney and Tyler Ennis had four steals each, harassing Indiana’s bigs when they brought the ball down — and long arms made life difficult. Rakeem Christmas, DaJuan Coleman and Jerami Grant combined for seven blocks, controlling the paint all night in a welcome change from their poor rotations earlier in the year.

“Our centers played a lot better tonight,” Boeheim said. “Sometimes they got a little too physical, but our traps were good and they protected the rim. We’ve been looking for that all season.”

Despite an ugly first half, though, Indiana managed to hang in through a mix of execution and sheer will. The Hoosiers got the ball to the high post a bit more as the half wound down, collapsing the zone with an extra pass. It was rarely pretty — Syracuse’s defense tends to make just about everything seem precarious — but it was effective. IU kept chipping away, trip to the line after trip to the line, and after two big Yogi Ferrell threes late in the half, it had tied the game for the first time since the opening tip. What seemed to be in control for the Orange had turned into just a four-point halftime lead.

“We were getting the ball to the high post, attacking, getting to the foul line,” said Indiana freshman Noah Vonleh, who shot 13-16 from the foul line en route to a team-high 17 points. “That was our gameplan, and I think we stuck to it pretty well in the first half.”

Coming out of the locker room, though, the wheels started to come off. The Hoosiers were out of sorts on their first few possessions, and that was all Syracuse needed. The Orange went on a 25-5 run, sparked by a flagrant two foul and ejection on Cooney as he went in for a breakaway dunk. Syracuse turned lazy passes and dribbles into points the other way; Indiana committed 16 turnovers in all, 10 in the second half, leading to 19 Syracuse points.

“I just think we got away from what was working,” Vonleh said. “I don’t really know what happened, I just know we started settling for threes, and that’s not what our plan was.”

This is an Indiana team still struggling for an identity after the departure of four starters from 2012’s Sweet 16 run. Once guard Will Sheehey, the only reliable shotmaker, left early in the second with foul trouble, everything bogged down — after putting up 28 field goal attempts in the first half, the Hoosiers managed just 13 in the second.

The Orange defense can mask a lot of offensive deficiencies, but there was some improvement Tuesday night. CJ Fair was effective and efficient in his isolation sets on the wing, pouring in 15 points on 50% shooting, and Grant and Christmas showed some surprising smoothness in the post.

But the story continues to be the improvement of Ennis and Cooney in the backcourt. The latter’s shooting has come to be almost automatic — he shot 5-9 from deep and sits at over 47% for the year, remarkable for a guy buried on the depth chart for most of his career.

“I don’t know anybody who shot well from the bench,” Boeheim said. “He was behind a guy [Sixers guard Michael Carter-Williams] averaging 20 points in the NBA and another senior [Brandon Triche] who was really, really good. Now he has his time.”

And the Canadian freshman just keeps getting better, much more in control just eight games into his career. He controlled the tempo, pushing at the right times, and Indiana couldn’t keep him out of the lane — he used screens well, knowing when to get his own shot and when to find teammates for easy looks. The two guards are beginning to provide the sort of shot creating and making that can take Syracuse to the next level.

“Tyler and I got to spend some time working out together in the summer, and we clicked,” Cooney said. “We have a great relationship on and off the court, and he’s as good as any other freshman out there right now.”

The Orange have a matchup with 14th-ranked Villanova in a few weeks, and then the ACC gauntlet begins. The non-conference road has been a little bumpy, but finally, Boeheim is beginning to see a complete team take shape, and maybe that smile will grow a little wider.

For video of Coach Boeheim's postgame press conference, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iaoipNBa85U

For interviews with players, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68bGriupQ5I

Over 26,000 fans packed the Carrier Dome Tuesday night.

Indiana guard Yogi Ferrell looks to find a passing lane against the Orange. 

Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis pulls up for a floater in the lane. 

CJ Fair goes up for a jump shot. 

Trevor Cooney gets his hand in a passing lane.

Tyler Ennis spots up for a three-pointer. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

SU Earns Bowl Eligibility With Last-Second Victory over Boston College

SU celebrates after George Morris II's second-quarter touchdown
Text, video and photos by Jonathan Gault

Scott Shafer is an emotional man. That much has become clear in 2013, even though just two of Syracuse's first 11 games were decided by a touchdown or less. So it's not a stretch to say that after SU closed out the regular season with a last-second, 34-31 win over Boston College on Saturday, the first-year head coach was feeling something.

"I love this team, I frickin' love this team!" Shafer proclaimed in the bowels of the Carrier Dome at the post-game press conference. Shafer shook the podium, added "I love this town!" and then closed with two words: bowl-eligible.

It's the goal that's driven this team since the season began on a hot August day in the Meadowlands, and SU achieved it in the most dramatic fashion possible. In a game with as many twists and turns as a Die Hard movie, Syracuse (6-6, 4-4 ACC) struck the decisive blow, as quarterback Terrel Hunt hit tight end Josh Parris for an eight-yard touchdown pass with six seconds remaining to give the Orange the victory.

SU's win may not have had the national title implications of Saturday's other frenetic finishes in Ann Arbor and Auburn, but to the men in orange and blue, nothing was more important on the final day of November.

"To know we're going to have another [game] is a great feeling," center Macky MacPherson said. "All I can think about now is that I get one more opportunity. I don't care who we play, I don't care where we play, I don't care if it's in Alaska."

MacPherson, grandson of SU coaching legend Dick MacPherson, said that he felt sorry for anyone who might have left early.

"It was a hard-fought game, and to be honest with you, I think that was one of the top five Syracuse games that's been played in the Dome, and I've been watching games for a while."

Hunt has been uneven in his first year under center, and when BC linebacker Steele Divitto intercepted his pass with 3:24 to play in the game, all appeared to be lost. Syracuse trailed, 28-27, and the Eagles (7-5, 4-4 ACC) had the ball at the Orange 22-yard line.

SU limited BC to a field goal, giving Hunt 2:08 to drive 75 yards for the winning touchdown -- without any timeouts. What followed was a microcosm of Hunt's season.

On that final drive, Hunt completed four of his five passes and added 19 yards on three carries. For the second time in as many drives, Hunt seemed as if he had lost the game for Syracuse, fumbling after an eight-yard carry took him to the BC 25. But the reliable MacPherson fell on the ball to retain possession, and four plays later, Hunt dumped a short pass off to Parris, who scrambled 11 yards before crossing the goal-line with the game-winning score.

"This was definitely my best game played ever, high school, whatever," Hunt said.

Hunt's numbers back up that assertion -- 29-of-43 for a career-high 270 yards passing and two touchdowns (and that one interception) and 17 carriers for 90 yards and another touchdown on the ground. Hunt consistently made the right call running the read-option and caught the BC defense napping with 22 seconds to play by running for a first down with BC expecting a spike.

"I didn't even look at the clock," Hunt said. "Coach called a spike and I sneaked it for the first down. Just play in the moment."

He still looks far from a finished product -- two fourth-quarter overthrows to wideouts Ashton Broyld and Christopher Clark both could have gone for touchdowns -- but Hunt's good plays outweighed the bad on Saturday.

Third down was key in the ballgame, and SU's success (12-for-18), coupled with BC's futility (3-for-10) allowed the Orange to pile up over 36 minutes of possession, compared to just 23 for the Eagles. SU outgained BC, 480 to 359, and doubled the Eagles up in first downs, 30 to 15. Add in Syracuse's success stopping BC's 2,000-yard rusher Andre Williams -- who was limited to just 29 yards on nine carries before leaving the game with an injury in the third quarter -- and it should have been an easy victory for the Orange.

But a propensity to give up big plays at the wrong times almost doomed Syracuse. SU gave up a 52-yard completion as Eagles quarterback Chase Rettig hit wideout Alex Amidon with a minute to go in the first half, setting up a BC touchdown to cut the halftime lead to 21-14. A 54-yard run by Rettig in the fourth quarter set up another Eagles TD and gave BC a 28-24 lead with 7:49 to play. Even the Orange's otherwise fine work on Williams was spoiled by one good run -- a 26-yard touchdown when Williams reached the edge before the Syracuse defense and sprinted down the left sideline for the score.

SU also failed to capitalize after moving the ball on two first-quarter drives, as Ryan Norton missed a 30-yard field goal and Jerome Smith was stuffed on fourth and goal from the two-yard line.

A pair of backups led the Orange's receiving corps, as Parris and wide receiver Alvin Cornelius III -- pressed into action after injuries to Beckett Wales and Jarrod West -- combined to catch 14 balls for 128 yards and two touchdowns, both to Parris.

"Nobody knows who Alvin is except for Jimmy Munson, his high school coach," Shafer said. "Alvin comes in, he blocks well, he makes plays.

"We've been beat up pretty damn good. 'The next guy in' has been our creed. I don't care what your name is, I don't care what jersey, I don't care what position you're supposed to be playing, but the next man in is up and it's his job to get it done. And today was a great example of the next man in."

Next man in on the Syracuse schedule? A bowl game.

Jerome Smith is wrapped up by a pack of BC defenders

A few more notes from Saturday's victory:
  • With the win, Syracuse is eligible for its third bowl in four years. The Orange played in the Pinstripe Bowl in 2012 and 2010.
  • Syracuse continued its streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher this season. 
  • Linebacker Marquis Spruill registered half of a tackle for loss on Saturday, tying him with Duke Pettijohn for second on the Orange's all-time list (40.0).
  • BC kicker Nate Freese hit a 21-yard field goal with 2:08 to play in the game and is a perfect 18-for-18 on the season.
  • Nineteen SU seniors and five student managers were honored on the Carrier Dome turf before the game by a group that included athletic director Dr. Daryl Gross and NFL Hall of Famer Floyd Little.
  • SU kicker Ryan Norton missed a 30-yard field goal early in the game but rallied back to hit not one, but two career-long kicks. He was good from 42 yards in the third quarter and hit again from 44 in the fourth.

Terrel Hunt excelled running the read-option on Saturday
SU senior captains Macky MacPherson, Jerome Smith, Marquis
Spruill and Jay Bromley line up for their final coin toss at the Carrier Dome