Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Recapping a great comeback in Kansas City

If you're an Orange fan - and even if you're a realistic Orange fan - you had to be impressed with what you saw in KC the last two nights.

Syracuse pulled off a pair of victories over the two teams that won the last two national championships. Certainly, the landscape of college basketball changes dramatically and very quickly so beating last year's national champion doesn't necessarily mean a lot. Afterall, Florida won a pair of national champions and didn't make the tournament the next year. So that could be Kansas this year. But it sure didn't look that way.

The Orange looked very good in both games - save for maybe the first ten or twelve minutes of the championship game with Kansas. But even when that led to a large deficit, Syracuse never quit and eventually worked its way back into the basketball game. Then it made enough plays down the stretch, Arinze Onuaku's two blocks, Jonny Flynn's three-pointer to force overtime for example, to defeat the Jayhawks who were playing before a raucous partisan crowd.

Flynn led the way with 25 points in the overtime win, but really it was the quality coaching of Jim Boeheim that deserves most of the credit.

Boeheim made two decisions during the game that seemingly made a huge difference and gave his team a chance to win the game. In the first half, with his team reeling and Onuaku and Paul Harris (14 points and 14 rebounds) both on the bench with two fouls, Boeheim realized his team couldn't afford to get further behind and he put them both back in the game, and the Orange got back into things before halftime. A late run by Kansas seemed to restore order, but the Orange was able to rally again in the second half after Boeheim again made an adjustment.

At that point, Boeheim went away from his trademark 2-3 zone and switched to a man-to-man defensive set. That allowed the Orange to erase a 51-38 deficit and get back into the basketball game.

Eric Devendorf chipped in with 20 as the Orange had four players in double figures.

The trip to KC showed me that this Syracuse team can be highly competitive this year. A potential sleeper in the Big East. Onuaku has to be involved, and there won't be many guards better than Flynn. Andy Rautins and Devendorf give the Orange legitimate three point threats. So this could become a special season for the Orange.

But for now the focus must be on Virginia, who comes to the Carrier Dome on Friday as Syracuse tries to pick up win #6 on the season.

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