Instant Juice: Syracuse 71, Connecticut 69

A quick take on Syracuse’s 71-69 win against Connecticut:

WHAT HAPPENED: After trailing by as many as 17 points in the second half, Connecticut closed on a furious rally to tie the game at 69-69 with 46.9 left. But SU immediately responded, as Fab Melo slammed in a CJ Fair miss to give the Orange a two point lead with 25 seconds left. From there, the defense would take over. Ryan Boatright’s go-ahead 3-pointer was blocked by Dion Waiters with 13 seconds left, and Roscoe Smith’s drive to tie was blocked by Fair with five seconds left as Syracuse hung on. With the win, SU clinched the Big East regular season championship outright.

» What did you think of Syracuse’s play today? Discuss.
» Does Syracuse have a 3-point shooting problem?

ANALYSIS: It was a tale of two halves, as Syracuse jumped out to a 43-29 lead before being outscored 40-28 in the second half. The Orange allowed Connecticut back in the game after getting sloppy with the basketball and going cold in the second half after a relatively mistake-free first half. But SU did enough to win by outrebounding UConn 38-36 and making two key defensive stops when the Huskies had two chances to either tie the game or win. SU coach Jim Boeheim said after that despite the close game, his team found a “way to win,” which is the fourth game in a row that the Orange has done that.

HERO: Kris Joseph had 21 points and seven rebounds while Fab Melo chipped in 11 points and nine rebounds, including the go-ahead basket.  Jeremy Lamb had 19 points and Andre Drummond had 17 points and 14 rebounds, seven on the offensive end, for Connecticut.

ZERO: Baye Keita’s regression continues. Last year when the Orange played at Connecticut, Keita had his best game of the season, with 11 rebounds and six steals in 27 minutes against the Huskies. On Saturday, Keita missed a pair of free throws and blew a point-blank layup in limited minutes. He had played just 20 minutes in the last three games combined and is quickly falling out of the rotation.

WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse wraps up its regular season when it plays Louisville at the Carrier Dome on March 3 at 4:00 p.m. TV: CBS.

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Wes Cheng

About Wes Cheng

Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.
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