NCAA News Wire

No. 7 Syracuse routs FSU to end losing streak

Alan Draper profile picture
Sports Editor
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The backboard was Syracuse’s biggest friend Sunday afternoon on the road at Florida State and the No. 7 Orange dominated the Seminoles 74-58 in their regular-season finale.

Syracuse (27-4 overall, 14-4 in ACC) outrebounded Florida State 43-24, including 17 on the offensive end, and the Orange will now enjoy a double-bye in the upcoming ACC Tournament, which begins next week in Greensboro, N.C.

Four players finished in double figures for Syracuse, including a game-high 22 points to go along with seven rebounds and four steals from forward C.J. Fair.

The victory helped Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim breathe a sigh of relief after a rough three weeks that included head-scratching losses to Georgia Tech and Boston College at home.

“I give these guys a lot of credit today,” Boeheim said of his team, which came into Sunday’s game mired in one of its worst skids in years, having lost four of its last five after opening the 2013-14 season 25-0.

“This (win) was a big, big turnaround for us. This will help us moving forward.”

Florida State, meanwhile, may now be moving toward the NIT Tournament, rather than the NCAA Tournament.

In most experts’ mock NCAA tourney fields, the Seminoles (18-12, 9-9) came into Sunday’s game as one the teams on the proverbial bubble. Despite winning four of five their last five games — including three in a row before the loss to Syracuse — the Seminoles will likely need a strong performance at the ACC Tournament to insert itself back into the NCAA conversation.

Syracuse will be the ACC Tournament’s No. 2 seed, while Florida State will either fall to No. 8 or 9, depending on Sunday night’s outcome between Boston College and N.C. State. If the Wolfpack win, FSU will open the tournament against Maryland, but if N.C. State loses, it will turn around and face FSU in the tourney opener.

Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton lamented the fact his team didn’t do more to get a much-needed win — or improve their standing in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament committee.

“We were not consistently taking what the defense gave us and we were extremely tentative in our approach,” Hamilton said. “Honestly, I thought we would do a much better job against this zone. We acted like we weren’t comfortable making decisions against the zone. They were definitely the better team today.”

One of the biggest questions coming into the game was if Florida State could break through Syracuse’s tough 2-3 zone, but early on the Seminoles weren’t able to finish at the bucket and the Orange grabbed a 7-2 lead in the opening four and a half minutes after FSU turned the ball over twice, missed two layups and failed to hit their opening three free throws.

But the Seminoles, who were led Sunday by senior forward Okaro White’s 20 points and 11 boards, stayed with Syracuse and even took a 16-15 lead midway through the first half. In a span of less than four minutes, White dropped in eight straight points and led all scorers in the first half with 14 points and six rebounds.

Guard Tyler Ennis put Syracuse back in front by three points, 23-20, with 5:44 left before intermission, sparking an 11-0 run to push the Orange’s lead to 31-20. Ennis led all Orange scorers in the first half with 12 points as Syracuse went to the break ahead 33-27.

Syracuse stretched the lead to eight points early in the second half, but FSU crept back in with a 7-1 run with 12 minutes remaining in the game. White’s lay-in cut the deficit to 47-46 and sent the crowd into a frenzy.

“We were in it,” said FSU guard Aaron Thomas, who chipped in 14 points in the loss.

But Orange guard Trevor Cooney, who was just 1-for-6 in the first half, heated up after Syracuse called a timeout and drilled back-to-back 3-pointers to stretch the lead back to seven, 57-51.

The Orange never looked back.

Syracuse center Rakeem Christmas jammed home back-to-back buckets with under three minutes to play to push Syracuse’s lead to 16 points, the 10,435 fans in Tallahassee — representing the largest crowd of the season at the Donald L. Tucker Center — headed for the exits.

Alan is an experienced writer of online betting and casino guides. He is one of the main editors of Basketballinsiders.

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