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A Recap of the Syracuse vs. Cincinnati Game

Syracuse was worn-down and tired after their epic match against Louisville on Saturday. However, the No. 3-ranked Orange took on the No. 21-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats on Monday night, and escaped with a narrow 57-55 win. It wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done, and it showed that Syracuse has the inner reserve of resiliency necessary to succeed during the long and grueling college basketball season. They were favored by nine points in the game, and there was every indication they would limp into the match exhausted after their epic 70-68 tilt against then-no. 1-ranked Louisville on Saturday, but they came through in the clutch (in the actual result if not in the spread covering).

“We didn’t want to lose,” said Michael Carter-Williams. “None of us like losing. We wanted to do anything to win that game. We picked up our intensity and our energy. We should have found that in the first half… Louisville was a tough, gritty game. We’re banged-up and sore,” Carter-Williams said. “To come back one day later and beat Cincinnati is a great feeling. We were a little fatigued. Now we get some rest.”

It came down to a tipped ball by Syracuse’s C.J. Fair, and it was another disappointing loss for the 16-4 Bearcats, who have lost three games by two points or less.

“It was a batted ball in the air by three guys — two of their guys and one of our guys — that just happened to go in the basket,” Bearcats head coach Mick Cronin said. “I’m not giving him a tip-in, not when our guys were trying to hit it the other way. Stuff happens. We didn’t get the stops defensively down the stretch. We got out-executed.”

However, Cincinnati could have seen their struggles coming; they are one of the worst teams in all of college basketball against the zone defense, shooting 33 percent and turning the ball over once every seven plays. That is a big part of how Syracuse was able to lock down Cincinnati in the waning minutes of the game and outscore them 13-4 over that span. Syracuse, meanwhile, appears to be ascending to college basketball’s elite. They tied with Kansas for the number three spot in the country, and are unbeaten in Big East play this season (they’re 28-1 in the conference over the past two regular seasons). However, Syracuse’s coach Jim Boeheim was still critical of two of his freshman players who, because of defensive lapses, allowed Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick to score some big buckets.

“Freshmen are going to make mistakes, that’s why they don’t play here. (Cooney) left Kilpatrick twice, and Jerami left him twice. Two freshmen, 12 points,” Boeheim said. “We can’t afford that. They didn’t make the right read in the defensive situation. You can’t leave a guy like that open.”

However, despite their somewhat sloppy play, the Orange are poised for another big season. They’re eighth in the country in rebounding and 25th in scoring, and, perhaps most importantly, are 3-0 against AP-ranked teams this season. They’ve got a nasty two-game road trip ahead of them at Villanova and at Pitt, and then they get No. 24-ranked Notre Dame at home, the only Big East team to beat them over the past two regular seasons. Indeed, the rest of the way isn’t exactly a cakewalk for Boeheim’s team; besides Villanova, Pitt and Notre Dame, the Orange still have to face Georgetown twice, UConn, Marquette and Louisville once again. But at the end of it all, this will be one of the most battle-tested teams in college basketball, and they could not be more prepared for the Big Dance when spring rolls around.

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