Game Notes: Syracuse at DePaul
DePaul nearly pulls the upset.
by Quinn Peterson
Anyone you asked about the DePaul/Syracuse game would guarantee that the Orange would win — handily. DePaul interim Head Coach Tracy Webster, Will Walker and the Blue Demons didn’t get the memo, however. They caught No. 4 Syracuse sleeping early on and nearly pulled off the upset before falling to the Orange, 59-57.
“We just weren’t ready defensively,” said Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim. He wasn’t lying.
DePaul came out and sliced and diced that coveted Syracuse 2-3, connecting on eight of their first 10 shots. The Blue Demons got it done inside and out, slicing and dicing the zone, behind 6 points from center Krys Faber and 5 from Will Walker.
“It just seemed like the guys were out there more poised than usual,” said Walker. “Guys were confident.”
DePaul’s defense helped set the tone early, too, forcing a turnover on the very first play.
“I told the guys, you gotta step to the ball, and the first play, we didn’t step to the ball and they stole it.”
His early timeout by couldn’t stop the bleeding either, as they turned the ball over immediately after that, too. DePaul fans were out in full force, and Allstate Arena was the loudest it’s been all season.
“It was exciting. The crowd was really into it,” said Walker. “We jumped on ‘em fast, it felt good. That built everybody’s confidence right out the gate, Everybody felt they could hit the shots they were shooting as they long as they were good shots…we had the feeling that we knew we were gonna win.”
Fortunately for the Orange, DePaul’s shooting began to return to reality. After a Mike Stovall jumper at the 8:50 mark gave the Demon’s a 33-15 lead — their largest of the game — DePaul went scoreless for the next seven minutes, allowing a Syracuse team that never panicked, back into the game. Some full-court pressure from ‘Cuse helped do the trick, as well.
Closing the half on a 16-2 run, ‘Cuse was right back in it. Wesley Johnson played like the All-American he’ll be, leading the Orange with 10 points and four rebounds. The Blue Demons were led by Will Walker’s 13 and a surprising 8 points from Faber, while the Demons shot a torrid (for them) 48 percent.
Their offensive struggles this season have been well-documented, so to put their success against ‘Cuse in further perspective: in their most recent game, against West Virginia, DePaul scored a mere 46 points; they had 35 in the first half Saturday against the Orange.
DePaul 35, Syracuse 31. Halftime.
Coming out of the lockeroom, it looked like DePaul might be back to their shooting ways from the game’s early minutes, as Jeremiah Kelly knocked down a three for their first bucket.
After going back and forth for a couple minutes, a Wesley Johnson fast break dunk that brought the Orange within one seemed like it might have been just what the Orange needed to get themselves over the hump. But Mac Koshwal answered with a quick layup and Walker followed up with a three.
DePaul would answer and hang on for a few minutes longer, until tragedy struck at the 8:28 mark. On the verge of being tied up, DePaul forward, Mario Stula called DePaul final timeout, leaving them vulnerable should Syracuse turn things on all of a sudden. And of course, that’s exactly what happened.
After three’s from Andy Rautins (who shot just 2-10; all threes of course) and Scoop Jardine brought Syracuse within two, a Wesley Johnson posterization of Mike Stovall tied things up at 54 and sent the Orange fan base (who traveled particularly well) into a frenzy. And DePaul was without timeout, no way to stop the bleeding.
“I think it did [hurt us],” said DePaul Head Coach Tracy Webster. “It was situations where we could have called timeout if we had one in the end, where we could have maybe drawn something up, stopped their momentum, but we didn’t and we’ll learn from it.”
Boeheim relegated the dunk to “just two points”, but it clearly gave the Orange a much-needed shot in the arm. A Jardine layup on the very next possession gave the Orange their first lead of the game with 3:37 left to play. Their baskets were part of a 10-0 run, and the Orange never looked back one taking the lead.
Walker hit a three with 1:06 to play, bringing the Demons within two, and had one final chance to give DePaul the win, but missed wide left as time expired.
“I got open off the screen. It’s just a shot that I’ve usually hit in my career…it still looked good to me when I let it go,” he said.
Johnson led Syracuse with 16 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists, while Kris Joseph supplied them with 15 points off the bench. Walker, the lone Blue Demon in double figures finished with 21.
DePaul 57, Syracuse 59. Final Score.
If you remember, Syracuse came out sluggish 7 days earlier against Georetown, too. This was a different case, though.
“It was like night and day,” said Boeheim. “Georetown’s comeback took five minutes. This one took 38 minutes.
“We played well against Georgetown. We had a bad five minutes and we played 35 great minutes. Tonight we played two great minutes. That’s usually not enough to win.”
“We stunk. You gotta give DePaul credit, they did what they needed to do.”
“Close but no cigar,” said Webster. “Our guys did a good job of trying to follow the game plan.
“These kids battle, they fight. We have to just continue to keep doing that, hopefully we’ll continue to have carry-over.”