Game Notes: Syracuse at DePaul
Top ranked Orange stay unbeaten.
by Quinn Peterson / @QwinFNP
Syracuse started 2012 the same way it ended 2011: with a blowout victory.
On a day when they could’ve been caught slipping (New Years Day, on the road, etc.), the No. 1 Orange stayed sharp and took care of DePaul, winning 87-68. With a surprisingly large fan contingent present, along with a bevy of NBA scouts in the building, Cuse—and several of its players—looked impressive.
Initially, however, DePaul was the first team to strike blood, jumping out to a 7-2 lead, forcing Jim Boeheim to call timeout just a minute-and-a-half into the game. (It was reminiscent of two years ago, when these two faced off in Chicago under similar circumstances.) That success would be short-lived, however. After tying it up at nine, Cuse used an 8-0 run to gain complete control of the game and they never looked back.
Leading the way was Kris Joseph, who clearly showed he was the best player on the floor. From the outset, he was looking to get his (still within the context of the offense, though), and did so efficiently and with ease throughout the night. He showcased an arsenal of offensive moves, getting to the rim, drawing fouls, pulling up, catching and shooting, and playing in the open court.
“It was a big game for Kris, getting the ball in the open court,” Boeheim said. “That’s where he’s at his best. Hitting ahead to him, I thought everyone did a great job. CJ Fair, I thought, was very good in the open court.”
Defensively, Fab Melo set the tone, anchoring Syracuse’s 2-3 zone with three blocks on the night. As a team, the Orange held the Blue Demons in check, holding DePaul to just 31 percent shooting from the field in the first half. DePaul constantly found themselves forcing up shots near the end of the shot clock after solid defensive possessions by Syracuse.
DePaul coach Oliver Purnell called Syracuse a clearly superior basketball team.
“I’ve seen the Syracuse zone for many years, played against it a few times, and this is one of the best that I’ve seen,” Purnell reflected. “A lot of it has to do with their shot-blocker in the middle — Melo — who just kind of cleans up things. If they make a mistake, he erases it. Also, their guards are such good anticipators out on the perimeter. They get their hands on balls, and it just kind of makes you play under duress in a different way all the time. They get so many steals and baskets off of turnovers.”
Syracuse’s infamous 2-3 was effective, but it was DePaul’s usually solid defense that was the problem, specifically in the halfcourt. Freely giving up penetration, they saw the Orange connect on 19 of 29 shots attempts, including 30 points in the lane. The Blue Demons were able to force some turnovers with their fullcourt press, but it was nowhere near enough.
“I didn’t think we played well guarding the dribbler, keeping them out of the lane” Purnell said. “They shot too many layups. If you shoot that many layups, and you’re that good, then you’re gonna have a difficult time staying in the game with that team, and that’s what proved tonight. They shot too many layups. They shot 65 percent in the first half because they shot so many layups and stick-backs.”
“We got a lot of layups. Whenever you get pressed, they’re gonna get some steals, that’s part of the game. They’re gonna gamble,” he said after the game. “Generally, when you play with more guys, you’re likely to make a couple more mistakes because you have more guys going into a pressure situation you get in an unusual spot sometimes. I thought overall we handled it well. We made a couple of bad turnovers, but we got a lot of easy baskets.”
After the first 20 minutes, Cuse led 45-26.
DePaul actually drew even in the second half, but trading baskets doesn’t get it done when you’re trying to erase a 19-point deficit. The closest they came was 17, while the lead ballooned to as much as 28 at one point.
There was plenty of scoring to go around for the Orange, as five players finished in double figures. Out in front were Joseph, who finished with 22, and CJ Fair who added 16. Melo added 10 points and six blocks.
DePaul’s two lone bright spots were Cleveland Melvin, who finished with 23 points and eight rebounds, and Dominique Kirk, who contributed 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting.