Some more recaps and thoughts on SU's 84-71 win over Notre Dame Monday night.
First up, Cuse Country, where they've noticed there's something special about this squad when the pressure's on.
These Orange players do not panic. They do not wilt under pressure. They do not get rattled, nervous, worried, disturbed, bothered, anxious, concerned, distressed, flustered, agitated, worked up, scared, unsettled, or disquieted. They respond. And they are getting better at it every game. This three-game six-day road test seems to have matured the team even more. Some of the talking heads on TV were saying in December that SU looked really good, but that they had perhaps reached their ceiling already. They (the heads) didn’t think there was much room for improvement on this team, and thus although they may have seemed like the best team in the nation at the moment, other teams were likely to pass SU during the season. I am happy to report that this was erroneous.
With the win, the Orange complete a three-game road swing during which they proved they can beat most any kind of opponent, says Bud Poluquin:
The Scarlet Knights are conference dregs and the Orange kept them that way. The Mountaineers are brutes and the Orange slugged with them. The Irish are finesse guys and the Orange beat them skill on skill.
And the result? Here it is at 18-1 for only the third time in Boeheim’s 34-year reign (although 10 seasons ago, SU was 19-0) and looking at five of its next seven contests in the Carrier Dome. Not a bad perch for an outfit that wasn’t even ranked as recently as two months ago.
Brent Axe is a little confused. Did we actually just win a game in which the X-factor was Arinze Onuaku's free-throw shooting...and that was a positive for us???
With Notre Dame on a 12-3 run and having closed a 52-41 Syracuse lead to 55-53, Arinze stepped to the free throw line and made...both free throws? It was the beginning of a run where 10 consecutive Syracuse free throws went in.kj
Go read that again.
Just a few minutes later with Syracuse now up 63-56, A.O. got fouled again, stepped to the line, and made...both free throws? Both free throws! Arinze Onuaku. Yes, that one.
The enforcer on the evening for Syracuse? It wasn't AO. Nor was it RickJack. It was Andy "All He Does Is Shoot Threes" Rautins, throwing elbows like an MMA fighter. Orange Fizz was impressed with the physical display.
Even lithe Andy Rautins brought the bang to this brawl, knocking out Tory Jackson with a wicked elbow and setting a dominating tone for the Orange.
Jackson was fine. Rautins got hit with an intentional foul. But it was his leadership, not just his brute Canadian force, that led SU to victory.