SYRACUSE It appeared simple enough for the Syracuse University men’s basketball team – two more home games, two more wins.
Yet circumstances outside of their control, in the form of road defeats for the nation’s top two ranked teams (Kentucky and Ohio State) meant that, on Monday, the 10-0 Orange had a chance to inherit the no. 1 spot in the polls.
Not that it was easy getting there. Jim Boeheim and his players had said that Marshall would provide a stiff challenge last Tuesday night at the Carrier Dome, and their prediction was on cue.The contest was quite a battle as the Orange survived to oust the Thundering Herd 62-56 in front of 19,150 spectators.
In a game much closer than expected, Dion Waiters powered SU’s offense, posting 16 points. Kris Joseph added 14 points and Scoop Jardine chipped in with 10 points.
Fab Melo contributed nine points and four blocked shots in 26 minutes. Even though Melo was in foul trouble, he persevered through the challenge and hit a couple of key baskets, too.
However, SU’s statistical numbers were not impressive. The Orange only shot 22-for-53 (41.5 percent) from the floor, including three-for-11 from 3-point range.
With the exception of two large scoring runs, SU’s defense carried the team along. It forced 19 Marshall turnovers and cashed in 16 times on transition baskets. The Herd was held to a weak shooting performance of 22-for-65, for 33.9 percent.
SU’s 68 points was a season low, but it did manage to win in most statistical categories such as fast breaks (18-4), bench scoring (24-10) and points off turnovers (20-8). Marshall only had two players in double figures, as Dennis Tinnon led his team with 17 points and Damier Pitts netted 10 points.
Early on, the Herd capitalized on defensive interior breakdowns and scored on two straight dunks from Chris Martin and Tinnon. The Orange reciprocated with three players who scored. Joseph, Triche and Jardine all converted field goals as the offense appeared to be in rhythm.