SU focuses on beating Eastern Michigan amid Fine scandal

The Syracuse University men's basketball team prevails despite a media circus surrounding the program after the firing of associate head coach Bernie Fine amid molestation accusations. The Orange defeat Eastern Michigan, 84-48.

Syracuse University men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim sat without long-time associate head coach Bernie Fine by his side in the Carrier Dome Tuesday. Amid all the allegations and the subsequent firing of Fine, the Orange (7-0, 5-0 home), ranked No. 3 in the USA Today/ESPN Top 25, still found a way to cruise to an 84-48 victory over the Eastern Michigan Eagles (4-3, 1-2 road).

With all the off-court issues surrounding the basketball team, Syracuse had a game to play. Scoop Jardine makes a basket against Eastern Michigan Tuesday night.

Fine, who had been a part of Syracuse University for almost half a century as a student and coach, was fired Sunday following allegations regarding sexual misconduct with three men, and reports of a fourth Tuesday, during his time as an assistant coach for the basketball program.

“It’s hard to put everything into words,” Boeheim said after the Eastern Michigan game. “I’m saddened in many ways by the events that have unfolded, and I’m looking forward to a time where we can talk and learn from what has happened.”

As soon as Boeheim walked onto the court, the crowd erupted with a loud standing ovation, seemingly solidifying its stance of support for the coach. Boeheim has been under fire recently for statements made in support of Fine last week. Boeheim accused Fine's alleged victims of lying to make money after the recent sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University. Boeheim later said he regretted these statements. 

“I think if you’ve worked with someone for 36 years and known for 48 years, you owe a debt of allegiance and gratitude for what he did for the program,” Boeheim said regarding his statement last week.  

This wasn’t the first game Syracuse played without their former assistant coach. After the allegations surfaced regarding Fine’s alleged molestation of former SU ball boys Bobby Davis and Mike Lang on Nov. 17, Syracuse University Athletic Director Dr. Daryl Gross placed Fine on administrative leave following a request from Chancellor Nancy Cantor. 

Senior captain Kris Joseph said the game wasn’t much different without Fine on the sideline.

“He definitely helped us and he always had words of wisdom,” Joseph said. “At the end of the day there’s not much of a change, we're just out there to play basketball.”

The coaching staff promoted Gerry McNamara from graduate manager to assistant coach after Fine was placed on leave of absence.  

As a captain, Joseph felt especially responsible for keeping the team focused on their season goals.

“We got to make sure that this is our team,” Joseph said. “We got to make sure that everyone stays on the same path and the same page.”

With all the off-court issues surrounding the basketball team, Syracuse still had a game to play. Boeheim assured the players would not be distracted, and they certainly didn’t show it Tuesday night. 

“Basketball brings its own pressures,” junior guard Brandon Triche noted. “And you can’t worry about anything outside of basketball.”

Triche, Joseph and junior forward James Southerland led the Orange with 12, 11 and 19 points, respectively. Triche scored all 12 of his points from behind the arc, shooting four of seven from 3-point range. Joseph and Southerland also had noteworthy nights from 3-point range, each making three shots from behind the arc.

“We don’t have one specific guy who’s going to be our shooter,” Joseph said.

Syracuse opened up with some sloppy basketball against a fast-pace Eastern Michigan squad, but soon began hitting their stride on offense and defense in the middle of the first half.

In the first 12 minutes, EMU guard Darrell Lampley ripped through Syracuse’s zone defense for 12 points. But Syracuse switched to a man-to-man defense, shutting the guard down. Lampley was held scoreless in the final eight minutes. Offensively, Syracuse was also clicking in the final eight minutes of the half, going on a 14-3 run to go up 32-24 after 20 minutes.

The second half was all SU, as they outscored the Eagles, 52-24, thanks in part to 12 assists coming mostly from senior guard Scoop Jardine. Jardine finished the night with 8 points, 7 assists, and 2 rebounds.

“In the second half we were able to get a little more penetration,” Joseph said. “We got the ball inside a little bit more and it opened up a lot of opportunities elsewhere.”

Not only did SU penetrate EMU’s defense in the second half, but the Orange also racked up offensive and defense rebounds. Southerland, sophomore forward C.J. Fair and freshman center Rakeem Christmas all recorded phenomenal nights on the boards. Southerland and Fair grabbed 5 boards apiece, while Christmas finished with 6 rebounds. 

The Syracuse community has been through a lot over the past few weeks, but Tuesday night’s victory gave everyone a sense of what the basketball program should really be about.

“We have a season,” Triche said. “We’ve come here to play basketball. Basketball is the only thing that's on our minds.”

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