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Syracuse 60 - Cincinnati 53: Well Thank God For That

The 2010-2011 Syracuse Orange won their first 18 games and then proceeded to lose four-in-a-row, as well as six of their next eight games.

When that team hit a wall, it hit it hard and it fell with reckless abandon. The Orange tumbled from No. 3 to No. 17 in the span of two weeks.

Whether we admit it or not, a lot of us thought we were about to witness it all over again.

So thank the Lord that this team learns from its mistakes, battles back and takes very little for granted. Otherwise, they wouldn't have escaped Cincinnati with a 60-53 win over the Bearcats. A win far more treacherous than the final score would indicate.

The Notre Dame loss was a debacle. Not on the same level as, say, the Seton Hall loss last year. But it was pretty bad. And the team knew it:

"The whole trip to Cincinnati, we watched the film,’’ Syracuse senior Scoop Jardine said. "That was worse than playing the game because we really got to see how poorly we played.’’

So did Jim Boeheim:

"I haven’t seen this team play half that bad -- a quarter that bad,’’ Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said of the Notre Dame loss.

When the Cincinnati game started in much the same manner, with the Bearcats sinking impossible three-pointers and taking hold of the momentum from the get-go, it would have been easy for this team to resign itself to yet another road loss. Head home, lick their wounds and try to pick up the pieces.

It makes their 60-53 win all the more impressive. And sweeter.

That the Orange won the game without Fab Melo, with Dion Waiters on the bench for most of the night and relying on Rakeem Christmas to control the paint on defense...well, that's something special.

It was Boeheim's 877th win, pushing him past Adolph Rupp. And he couldn't have picked a better way to do it.

"I think this is one of my best wins I've coached at Syracuse," Boeheim told SU play-by-play broadcaster Matt Park after the game.

"The other night everybody played bad," Boeheim also told Park. "Today, everybody played well."

A loss here would not have ended the season, but it would have sent the entire fanbase into a "woe is us" tailspin. And more importantly, it would have sent a shockwave of doubt into the lockerroom. Maybe the critics were right after all...

Actually, no. And they're lining up to praise how the Orange pulled it off.

Kris Joseph posted 17 points to lead the Orange while Scoop Jardine added 13 points and six assists. Christmas only had four points, but it was his nine rebounds and three blocks that made all the difference. Meanwhile, Brandon Triche recovered from an early spill to score eleven points, grab four steals and made a bunch of critical plays to ice the win.

By the way, credit where credit is due, Scoop. Six assists and zero turnovers. More and more, Scoop is finally turning into the consistent guard we always expected him to be. Just in time.

Believe it or not, the Orange won the rebounding battle (36-35) and crushed it on field goal percentage (46% to 34%), both marked improvements.

Now, a week to get things in order, work on our free throws and hopefully get Fab Melo back before the West Virginia Mountaineers come a-callin' Saturday at 1 p.m.