Orange basketball is the giver of many things

The high-flying Syracuse men’s basketball team held off Marquette, 76-71, in Big East action Saturday afternoon, giving returning students a taste of success to come.

The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away –Job 1:21

For the second consecutive Saturday, No. 5 Syracuse let a Big East opponent believe that a miracle comeback was about to occur. It was West Virginia last weekend, and this afternoon the hopeful wore “Marquette” on their jerseys. 

Photo: Andrew Burton
The large Carrier Dome crowd hoisted a massive Jim Boeheim tribute Saturday during a 76-71 victory over Marquette.

Holding a 17-point lead with 3:45 remaining and fans buttoning up their winter coats, the Orange started to make mistakes that led to three-pointers for the Eagles. Marquette got within four points, 75-71, after a Maurice Acker triple with 10 seconds left. 

“We’re better than that at the end of games,” said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim following the game. “We’re going to have to be better in end-of-game situations.”

Hulking Syracuse forward Rick Jackson hit one of two free throws on the next possession, and the Eagles (11-8, 2-5 Big East) missed their final shot as the Orange (19-1, 6-1) held on for the 76-71 victory—their fifth consecutive—before 29,011 fans.

Orange superstar forward Wes Johnson dazzled the boisterous faithful (the attendance was the largest in the country this season for an on-campus college basketball game), posting his ninth double-double of the season with game-highs for points (22) and rebounds (11) while swingman Kris Joseph also added a double-double with 14 points and a season-best 11 boards.

Syracuse dominated the contest on paper: 58.5 percent shooting from the field, 23 assists on 31 field goals and a decided rebounding edge (46-21). But the Orange was in a giving mood and committed 22 turnovers while surrendering 10 three-pointers to Marquette. 

Acker accounted for four triples and 12 points, while backcourt mate Darius Johnson-Odom led the Eagles with 17 points. Marquette leading scorer Lazar Hayward contributed 16 points and eight rebounds in the loss.

The giving began hours before the game: Syracuse student-athletes braved cold temperatures, collecting donations from fans that would go to the Red Cross with the intention of helping earthquake survivors in Haiti.

“A lot of people are donating,” said senior track & field athlete Uhunoma Osazuwa, who happened to be aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean Sea when the 7.1-scale earthquake struck on January 12. “We had this opportunity to come out here, and so far it’s been good.”

The student-athletes will be outside the Dome again on Monday before the Georgetown game, and SU Athletics will then turn the collection cans over to the Red Cross, said Sue Edson, SU Assistant Director for Athletics Communications.

The giving became contagious inside the Dome: 

  • Joseph ran into the student section during warm-ups to give out high-fives. “I like doing that kind of stuff; I think the fans appreciate it,” Joseph said. “The more the fans appreciate someone, the more they’re going to cheer for the whole team.”
  • Syracuse senior Divina Davis gave the crowd chills with soulful rendition of the national anthem; the crowd returned the favor with a hearty ovation.
  • The student section gave out love to Boeheim in the form of a giant picture of his head (courtesy of creative minds Pat Manley and Stephen Wolek).
  • The University gave its VIP fans a swanky high-end bar on the first level, with various top-shelf liquors, mood lighting and high-definition televisions.

On the hardwood, the Orange also was in the mood to give. First it was five unanswered points, and then seven turnovers (they’re called give-aways in football) in the first seven minutes, the majority of which came as Syracuse looked to exploit its height advantage. 

“We’ve got to do a better job if we are going to go inside,” Boeheim said. “We can’t have 11 or 12 of our turnovers coming around the basket.”

Midway through the first half, Acker canned two threes in 54 seconds to cap 16-7 run by the Eagles and produce a 34-27 Marquette lead. 

The Eagles missed a jumper on their next possession and Johnson swooped in for the rebound. His outlet pass found senior guard Andy Rautins, who snapped a pass to freshman Brandon Triche. Triche dashed in for a fast-break lay-up, bringing the crowd to its feet.

“I think it was pretty obvious I was trying to pass the ball tonight and look for my teammates and get up on defense,” said Rautins, who despite scoring zero points as Marquette limited his shots (just two attempts), accounted for a game-high six assists and three steals.

The Orange held Marquette scoreless the rest of the half, and Johnson turned an offensive rebound into a pair of made free throws as the teams hit the locker room knotted at 34-all.

“If you’re even in this league, it's not such a bad thing,” Boeheim said of the halftime gridlock. “If you’re even in this league, and you haven’t played your best. That’s pretty good.

Given a second chance, the Orange reverted to the original game plan (assert size advantage inside, defend perimeter) with considerable success. A Triche three-point play capped a 14-6 Syracuse run and the hometown team led 48-40 with 14:27 left.

“We played probably the best basketball—defensively and offensively—that we’ve played all year for that 15, 16 minutes of the second half,” gushed Boeheim.

The circle of giving worked in Syracuse’s favor for much of the second half. A resurgent Arinze Onuaku found Triche alone under the basket for an easy two points, and then the fifth-year senior post got a smooth entry pass from Johnson for an easy dunk. On the next Orange possession, it was Johnson receiving an alley-oop from Joseph while four minutes later, Joseph threw down an alley-oop from guard Scoop Jardine.

Giving is good. Just can’t let someone take it away.


Wes Johnson (4) recovers a defensive rebound against Marquette. Syracuse went on to win 76 - 71. Photo: Andrew Burton

Syracuse forward Wes Johnson (4) snatches one of his game-high 15 rebounds
against Marquette Saturday afternoon. Photo: Andrew Burton /

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