November 28, 2006


Orange hang on after strong start


Associated Press/Kevin Rivoli
Syracuse’s Darryl Watkins fouls Holy Cross’ Tim Clifford during the first second half of Monday’s clash of unbeatens at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse won 72-64.

AP Sports Writer

SYRACUSE — Unbeaten Syracuse finally won a tight game, and that’s probably a good thing at this stage of the season.
The No. 15 Orange used a smothering defense in the first half to put Holy Cross in a deep hole, then held off the Crusaders 72-64 Monday night.
For a team that had won its first six games by an average of 18 points, the close call — Holy Cross trailed by double digits most of the game before rallying late — might end up being a blessing in disguise with No. 17 Wichita State (4-0) visiting on Saturday.
“This is my first time playing in that type of situation,” said junior point guard Josh Wright, who had 13 points, five rebounds, four assists, one turnover and a dunk. “It was so hard mentally. It was more mental than anything because physically I could play all day. I took a great lesson from it.”
Syracuse, which trailed by 15 points in the first half of two of its previous three games, made certain that wouldn’t happen again with an early stifling defense.
Holy Cross shot just 30.8 percent in the first half and the Orange went 13-for-17 on free throws as the Crusaders picked up 13 fouls and failed to get a single opportunity at the line.
Holy Cross missed 10 of its first 13 shots and scored just five points in the first 11 minutes. The Crusaders also committed 14 turnovers before the break and fell behind 22-7 at 8:17 after a 3-pointer by Demetris Nichols and two free throws by Wright.
“We played the best defense we’ve played in a long time. We did a tremendous job,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “We left them open twice, and they made two 3s. Otherwise, we would have had the best defensive half that we’ve ever had here.”
It showed in the box score.
Speedy Torey Thomas, who was averaging 14.4 points per game, struggled to penetrate and made his lone basket of the first half on a driving layup with 1:23 left. Thomas, who missed his first five shots, finished with six points in 37 minutes.
Center Tim Clifford, who was in foul trouble early, scored five points, all in the second half before fouling out with 4:37 left. The 6-foot-10 center, who was averaging 11.2 points per game, had only one rebound.
“I’m tremendously disappointed in our energy and focus tonight,” Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard said. “The first half was ridiculous. We didn’t execute offensively at all, and we didn’t follow the game plan defensively. We let them get some separation from us.”
A 3-pointer by Alex Vander Baan, who finished with eight points and 11 rebounds, and a hook in the lane by Greg McCarthy in the final minute narrowed Syracuse’s lead to 31-19_at halftime.
The second half was almost the reverse. The Orange were hit with 15 fouls and Holy Cross made 14-of-19 free throws. That, and a surge by Keith Simmons, helped the Crusaders make it close at the end.
“The fact that the game became a game in the second half means nothing,” Willard said. “We didn’t come out and execute what we prepared to do, and we paid the price.”
A layup by Eric Meister and three free throws by Colin Cunningham had the Crusaders within 62-55 with 3:21 left. A 3 by Simmons in the final minute pulled them to 66-60, and two free throws by Cunningham with 17.4 seconds left made it 68-64.
Eric Devendorf and Nichols then each made a pair of free throws to seal the victory, easily the Orange’s narrowest of the season.
“The first half we came out with more of a focus on playing defense and taking those guys out of what they wanted to do and pretty much get out to a fast start,” Wright said. “The second half we weren’t as excited on defense and we paid for it.”
Simmons, a career 45 percent shooter on 3-pointers, missed both shots he took from beyond the arc in the opening half and finished 2-for-7 from long range. But he did score 16 of his game-high 22 points in the second half.
“We came in and let the whole idea of playing Syracuse get to us. What happened in the first half is unacceptable,” Simmons said. “We just played scared. That played right into their hands.”
Nichols scored 21 points to lead Syracuse, while center Darryl Watkins, who sat out the previous two games with a nose injury, had seven points and six rebounds in 21 minutes while playing with a plastic guard over his nose.
“It was a good team we played tonight,” Watkins said. “If we spotted them points, we would have been down 20 at the end.”
Colgate 78, Binghamton 70: At Hamilton, Jon Simon scored_23 points to lead Colgate in a win over Binghamton.
The teams went into the half tied_at 31 after Duane James made a three-point shot for Binghamton_(3-2) at the buzzer.
A three-pointer by Mike Gordon gave Binghamton a 41-37 lead with about 16 minutes left to play.
Colgate responded with blocks by Daniel Waddy and Marc Daniels, which led to a three by Simon.
Colgate took back the lead for good with a four-point play by Simon to put the team up 44-41.
Siena 64, New Jersey Tech 40: Michael Haddix scored a game-high 13 points, leading three double-figure scorers, as Siena won at New Jersey Institute of Technology. David Ryan added 12 points and Edwin Ubiles scored 11 for the Saints (2-2).
Clayton Barker and Marc Milbourne Swan led NJIT (2-3) with 10 points apiece as the Highlanders were held to a season-low scoring total.
Buffalo 64, Temple 62: In Philadelphia, Eric Moore scored 21 points and hit 5-of-10 3-pointers to lead Buffalo past Temple. Yassin Idbihi added 12 points and 14 rebounds for the Bulls (5-2), who spoiled the home debut of Temple coach Fran Dunphy. Dionte Christmas led the Owls (0-2) with a career-high 23 points while Dustin Salisbery had 15 and Semaj Inge 10.