Just two days after losing their first game of the year, the No. 3-ranked Syracuse Orange earned a solid bounce-back road victory Monday downing the Cincinnati Bearcats, 60-53, in a Big East Conference men's basketball game at the Fifth Third Arena. The Orange (21-1, 8-1 Big East) not only responded to Saturday's loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, but also helped their head coach Jim Boeheim earn his 877th career victory, which placed him alone in fourth place on the all-time list for Division I coaches.
However, since coach Boeheim doesn't find his personal accomplishments significant, then I'll move on to more important topics regarding Syracuse's Monday win at Cincinnati.
All Boeheim quotes can be attributed to WAER Sports' live audio replay.
Rakeem Christmas Rebounds, Literally
After being manhandled Saturday by Notre Dame junior forward Jack Cooley, who tallied 17 points and collected 10 rebounds, Syracuse's freshman forward responded with a solid showing Monday. Christmas tallied a collegiate-best in rebounds (nine), blocks (3) and minutes played (27), while adding four points. The freshman also did a decent defensive job on Cincinnati's senior forward Yancy Gates (16 points and 10 rebounds).
"Rock was huge," said Boeheim after the game. "Inside on Gates he did a great job for a freshman.
"He was much better tonight than he was against Notre Dame. It's tough playing in there as a freshman in this league."
For the last two games, Christmas has filled in at the center position because starting sophomore center Fab Melo didn't travel with the team for its two-game, Midwest road trip to Notre Dame (Saturday) and Cincinnati because of, "an unresolved academic issue".
Christmas was probably the biggest positive Syracuse took away from Monday's victory, as he was aggressive, showed his athleticism and was a big difference maker. Christmas went up against one of the better big men in the Big East and was productive.
It is still unknown when or if Melo will return to the SU lineup, but if Christmas can progress like this from game-to-game then the loss of Melo might not be as bad as some may have initially thought.
|2011 - Rakeem Christmas||21||12.1||1.3||2.4||56.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.8||1.1||66.7||1.2||1.8||3.0||0.0||0.7||0.4||0.7||1.9||3.4|
Scoop 'Tremendous' Again
For the second time in three game, Boeheim used the word "tremendous" to describe the overall play of senior point guard Scoop Jardine, who tallied 13 points, six rebounds and committed no turnovers. However, Jardine's biggest contribution to the victory was his late-game heroics, which featured 10 points in the final 9 1/2 minutes that included a pull-up 3-pointer, which gave Syracuse a 59-48 lead with 1:53 remaining and basically cemented the victory.
"I am glad Scoop made that last 3 because the way we shot free throws we needed it," said Boeheim.
In nine Big East games, Jardine has dished out 58 assists and turned the ball over just 18 times. That's more than a 3 to 1 ratio.
Jardine was one of two veteran players to score in double figures, as senior forward Kris Joseph stepped up his play posting a game-best 17 points -- 11 in the second half -- while junior guard Brandon Triche added 11.
"Those veteran guys that's who you have to go with in these situations," said Boeheim, "and they came up big."
In fact, the veterans were so good Monday, it didn't matter that the Orange's second-best scorer, sophomore guard Dion Waiters (13.0 points per game), finished with just two points in 12 minutes.
If you didn't think SU's victory was very impressive, well, Boeheim would disagree with you. After the game, he called the result one of the most impressive bounce-back victories he's witnessed during his 36-year tenure at Syracuse.
"I was very disappointed in the way we played (Saturday), said Boeheim. "Notre Dame can beat us, we could go there and play them again and they would beat us, but I thought we played bad."
"I told the player that was as good of a regular season bounce-back win at Syracuse (I've seen)."
Juli Boeheim on man-to-man defense
Very early in Monday's game, the Bearcats raced out to a 13-6 advantage thanks impart to making four of their first five 3-points shots, including three from junior guard Cashmere Wright. Well, in the post-game presser, Boeheim was asked why the Orange never went to a man-to-man defense and stayed in their patented 2-3 zone.
His answer, well, was a typical Boeheim response:
My wife (Juli) asked me the other night, 'Can't you play man defense?,'" said Boeheim. "So, I even get (that question) at home."
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