After what feels like an eternity, Syracuse finally is back on the winning track, after taking down UConn last night 66-58 in a hostile environment on the road. After losing four games in a row in the Big East, this was a game they absolutely needed to win. There’s nothing quite like restoring a team’s confidence like a win away from home against one of their biggest rivals. At long last, the defense of Syracuse came together, they got big plays when they needed them, they crashed the boards, and made few enough mistakes to escape with a win.
This game was won on defense. Syracuse held UConn to 36% shooting, absolutely shut down Kemba Walker, who had a season low eight points, and actually out-rebounded the Huskies by 10, a stunning statistic. They committed only nine turnovers, and forced 14 by Connecticut. The biggest play of the game, in my opinion, was the play to end the first half. Syracuse got the ball on their end with just about two seconds left in the half, down one. They threw the ball in down low to their beast, Rick Jackson, who flipped a short hook shot into the basket as time expired to give Syracuse their first lead (sans a 2-0 lead over Villanova, which barely counts), since they last won a game.
More importantly, the team finally responded during the second half of the game. Each run by Connecticut was met with an equally inspired charge by Syracuse, whether it was the disruptive defense, timely shots of Brandon Triche, or the big guys down low, Jackson and Baye Moussa-Keita, who had probably his most effective game of his young career. It was refreshing to see the team finally come to life, in a game where if they didn’t, they may not have the rest of the year.
With this losing streak finally behind them, let’s hope Syracuse gets back to their winning ways and can again make a run to the top of the Big East. It’ll take a few more games to truly see if they’re back on the same track that saw them get out to an 18-0 start on the season, but, for now, I’m simply going to sit back and enjoy this victory, one even Jim Boeheim admitted that his team “had to have.” And on a more personal note, as an avid Orange fan living in Connecticut, I’m just happy I don’t have to listen to all the UConn fans tear into me for the next month.
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Written by Curt Bell