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Can Syracuse’s defense continue improving?

Published on February 4, 2011 by   •   Discussion
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No. 17 Syracuse will try to build on its defensive momentum when it travels to face South Florida on Saturday.

The Bulls (8-15, 2-8 Big East) have lost 10 of their last 12, including a 68-63 loss against Providence on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Orange (19-4, 6-4) snapped its four-game losing streak after topping No. 7 Connecticut 66-58 the same day.

The win helped SU coach Jim Boeheim avoid a five-game losing streak for the first time in his career.

“We kept it going on the defensive end,” forward Kris Joseph said. “And stayed patient on offense.”

Syracuse ended its skid by getting back to its defensive fundamentals. The Orange, which had given up 80.7 points per game in its four losses, held the Huskies to 58 points.

“We did a better job defensively than we have,” Boeheim said. “That was the difference.”

Syracuse looked strong in all of the areas it had been lacking during its losing streak — both inside and out.

At the top of the zone, guards Brandon Triche, Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters all turned in solid performances against Connecticut guard Kemba Walker. Walker, who led the Big East in scoring at 24.2 points coming into the game, scored just eight points on 3-for-14 shooting.

The Orange consistently doubled Walker and prevented Connecticut’s other guards from getting into the soft spots in Syracuse’s zone.

“The guards did a great job keeping the penetration limited,” forward Kris Joseph said. “The guard penetration is what usually hurts us. The inside screen on the zone allows guard penetration and allows inside dump downs and outside kickouts for 3.”

That helped Syracuse hold Connecticut to just 36 percent shooting from the field and 8-for-23 from downtown. The Huskies also committed 14 turnovers.

The Orange received a huge lift inside from reserve center Baye Moussa Keita after starter Fab Melo played only three ineffective minutes.

Keita turned in one of his best performances of the season, collecting four points, 11 rebounds, six steals and two blocks before fouling out after 27 minutes.

“Baye had a lot of rebounds and six steals,” Triche said. “He did a remarkable job stopping the big guys from scoring inside.”

That aided Syracuse in out-rebounding Connecticut 42-32, including a 17-9 margin on the offensive glass.

“It was more so our rebounding that affected the game than most,” Triche said. “Even when we missed it, we got offensive rebounds and put them back in.”

For one night, everything seemed to click again for Syracuse again.

“As a team, we came together and played defense,” Triche said. “We just needed a team effort, and it showed tonight.”

Wesley Cheng is the Editor in Chief for The Juice Online.

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