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Survival Of The Fittest: Syracuse 80, Seton Hall 73

Maybe it's true, maybe it's not.  But it feels like this is a game that Syracuse loses any other year.  But not this year.

Wes Johnson dominated the interior with 20 points and 19 rebounds, helping No. 5 Syracuse survive its first true road test of the season with an 80-73 victory over Seton Hall in a Big East battle at the Prudential Center.

Kris Joseph was one of five Orange players finishing in double figures, adding 16 points for Syracuse (13-0, 1-0 Big East), which remained unbeaten thanks to a 47.5 percent overall shooting effort.

Jeremy Hazell hit six three-pointers en route to a 38-point effort for the Pirates (9-3, 0-2), who were coming off a 90-84 overtime loss to highly-ranked West Virginia on Saturday. Herb Pope chipped in 15 points and 17 rebounds in the loss.

You can watch game highlights here.  Mike Waters, coming to us from the Newark Ramada Inn apparantely, fills you in on the details:

Mike Waters' post-game

As Mike says, it was Wes and KrisJo who sealed the comeback win for the Orange.  Kris scored 16 off the bench, including a clutch 8-of-9 from the free throw line. For Joseph, it was a monster dunk in particular that helped turn the tide:

So on Tuesday night, when he took flight from just inside the free throw line and threw down what he termed a "Mike Jordan," Joseph was in his basketball element. That slam – that monster dunk with 9 minutes and 23 seconds in a tight game in enemy Seton Hall territory – gave Syracuse a 59-57 lead and lifted the Orange in more ways than one.

Seton Hall turned it over on its next possession and SU authored a 9-0 run that helped separate it from the Pirates in what would become a gritty 80-73 Orange victory. That Joseph dunk, admired by teammates afterward, was the catalyst in the SU comeback.

As for Wes...after a slow start he really turned it on the 2nd half.  His final stat line read 20 points, 19 rebounds, 5 blocks and a steal.  Wes did get a scare however when the intensity between these two rivals reared it's head and Johnson was on the receiving end of an intentional foul from Herb Pope.

The play hushed the Prudential Center crowd of 9,800. Wes Johnson, clipped from behind by the burly Herb Pope as he went up to dunk with SU leading 63-57, landed awkwardly from flight, his legs splayed beneath him.

Johnson said the play looked more dramatic than it was. His teammates say he is so athletic, so sort of rubber-limbed, that he seems almost physically invincible. In that one moment of the Seton Hall game, Johnson said, his post-play posture said more about his fatigue level than his pain threshold.

"Honestly, after he fouled me, I just fell down to catch my breath," Johnson said. "Honest. I was fine. I caught myself. And pretty much, I acted a little bit."

Greg Paulus' influence is already paying dividends.  As for the rest of the Orange (full boxscore here)...

  • Arinze played 23 minutes and looked decent, scoring 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting.  He's still not back at full-strength but he's on his way.
  • Brandon Triche found out the difference between an Oakland and a Big East team as he struggled, scoring just four points on 1-for-6 shooting to go with four turnovers.  He also apparently tweaked his back so we'll have to keep an eye on that.
  • Mookie Jones only played four minutes but they were four minutes that helped slow down the Hall's at the end of the first half.
  • Scoop Jardine disappeared in the 2nd half but did add 10 points and 3 assists.
  • Rick Jackson didn't do much scoring but he did provide ten rebounds and 3 blocks to help control the frontcourt.
  • Not a great night for Andy Rautins.  He scored ten but he ended up turning the ball over six (!) times.  Not what you need out of the senior.

In fact, turnovers reared their ugly head in general for the Orange all night.

20 turnovers. Seton Hall was aggressive on defense, but too many of these were self-inflicted. "20 turnovers" and "Big East win" are not two things you often see in a sentence together. They got away with one here.

Credit to Jeremy Hazell, who scored 38 on the Orange, the the eighth-highest total ever against Syracuse.  Then again, dude shot the ball 31 times (!), including 15 three-point attempts.  You BETTER score 38 points if you're gonna do that.  Only one other Pirate scored in double-figures (Pope, 15).  The Pirates decided to try and live or die by Hazell's shot and unfortunately for them it wasn't enough.

Some other recaps, reports and quotes from around the Interwebs:

Impressive win for Syracuse. Top four teams in the country are separating: Texas, KU, Syr and Kentucky...Andy Katz

Syracuse stays perfect & Wesley Johnson cements his place as stiffest competition to John Wall for National POY with 20 pts, 19 reb., 5 biks...Jeff Goodman

Seton Hall again falls short of statement game with 80-73 loss to No. 5 Syracuse...Brendan Prunty, Star-Ledger'

Post-Game Thoughts: Syracuse 80, Seton Hall 73...GonzoBall

How we won: It wasn’t easy...Cuse Country

The view from Jersey City...Cuse Country

Syracuse - Seton Hall Observations...Three Idiots on Sports

Syracuse-Seton Hall Analysis...D.O. Sports Blog

Orange squeak past Pirates...CuseConfidential