- Dana O'Neil, ESPN Senior Writer
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CINCINNATI -- A quick look at No. 4 Syracuse’s 60-53 win at Cincinnati ...
What it means: The Orange avoid even the smallest of skids, rebounding from their first loss of the season to keep their place alone atop the Big East standings. The only caveat: Syracuse still struggles somewhat when forced into a more traditional half-court offense. Cincinnati, which was in the hunt for sole possession of second place in the league, now tumbles to the middle of the pack with three losses -- yes, it’s that crowded in that part of the conference.
How it happened: Syracuse found its 3-point stroke just in time. The Orange, in danger of going oh-fer from the arc for the first time since 1995, sunk their first trey with 9:29 left and followed it up with another a minute later. The back-to-backs from Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche opened up what had been a tight game, giving the Orange enough wiggle room to escape Cincinnati and the Bearcats’ first sellout of the season. It also helped that SU committed just eight turnovers and Cincy shot just 34 percent.
Star of the game: There’s never a single star with Syracuse, which is sort of the beauty of the Orange. This is a team in the true sense of the word. Split the honors among Jardine and Triche and Kris Joseph. The trio not only created offense in transition, but the players made it with smart backcuts to get easy buckets underneath the hoop. Joseph was especially dazzling, breaking down the Bearcats’ defense deftly with the dribble and nailing three key buckets during a late 12-2 run that put away Cincy. He finished with a team-leading 17 points (8-of-11 on field goals) and six rebounds. Jardine finished with six assists and zero turnovers. Huge.
For starters: Taking a page from the Notre Dame playbook, Cincinnati got off to a blistering start, scorching to a 15-6 lead with four 3-pointers. But when the 3s stopped falling, the Bearcats struggled to find an offensive alternative, allowing Syracuse back into the game. The Orange took their first lead in the final minute of the half and took a 28-25 lead into the locker room. The surprising stat: Even without Fab Melo, Cuse outscored Cincinnati in the paint, dominating with an 18-8 advantage as the Bearcats fell a little too deeply in love with the 3. The team that relies on the outside shot for 34 percent of its offense knocked down five of 11 shots from deep in the first half but just four of 15 from anywhere else.
Of note: Both teams struggled from 3-point range and from the free throw line. Combined, the Orange and Bearcats went 11-of-37 from 3-point range and 8-of-24 from the charity stripe. ... Syracuse was once again without big man Fab Melo. On Saturday, the university announced the sophomore would not play against the Bearcats or against Notre Dame. ESPN.com’s Andy Katz reported it is due to an academic issue stemming from the first semester. ... Cincinnati wore throwback uniforms, dating back to the 1961-62 season. ... UC's Sean Kilpatrick played despite a hip pointer and groin injury. ... With the victory, Jim Boeheim won his 877th game and passed the legendary Adolph Rupp for fourth all time in wins, just two behind Dean Smith for third.
Research fact of the night: Syracuse shot 25 percent from the 3-point line and 33 percent from the free throw line. According to ESPN Stats & Info's Chris Fallica, 15 other teams have shot that badly or worse in those two categories in a game this season. The result? Those teams went 0-15 with an average loss of 20.5 points. The Orange won by seven.
What’s next: Syracuse, which hopes to get some sort of resolution regarding Melo this week, hosts Big East POY favorite Kevin Jones and rising West Virginia on Saturday afternoon. The Bearcats go to Rutgers, which used to be easier than it is these days. The young Scarlet Knights are especially tough at home, where they’ve already beaten Florida and Connecticut.