Despite losing their previous games to them, despite a raucous crowd dressed in their finest white and despite the worst referees ever to walk the Earth (for both teams), the Syracuse Orange emerged victorious Monday evening 52-51, surviving Hell Week a perfect 3-0 and retaining their spot atop the Big East.
It was not pretty and it was not fun and it was not a treat to watch and did I mention it wasn't pretty? The Orange overcame their own unbelievably-bad shooting night, going 1-for-15 from three-point range and making only two shots outside of the paint all night. Thankfully for them, the only team that shot as poorly as they did was the Louisville Cardinals.
Syracuse shot 34.4%, Louisville shot 34.7%. Syracuse went to the line a mere 11 times but made 8 of them. Louisville, meanwhile, went to the line 21 times and made only 12.
C.J. Fair carried his weight as many of the other SU stars fell off, scoring 13 points and grabbing five rebounds. Whenever the Orange needed a crucial basket or big play. Fair was there.
Fab Melo was pretty key as well. He scored 11 and grabbed six boards, but he continued to alter the traffic in the paint and do everything he could to keep SU in control (which he couldn't do all by himself).
A big help to the Orange was Peyton Siva's foul trouble. Siva ripped up SU early on but found himself on the bench with three fouls early on. Siva was scoreless in the second half after leading all players with eight points in the first half. He was Scoop-esque in his decision making.
The teams will meet again for their regular season finale on March 3 at Syracuse and you can bet it will be another fight. The Orange were the team on top when the clock expired tonight but it could have easily gone the other way. However, credit due to this SU team that continues to find ways to win. It's not the kind of winning that impresses folks like Digger Phelps but it's winning, and that's more than most other teams can say.
Take it and run, Orange fans. 26-1.