Top 10 Syracuse stories from the past decade

What a decade it’s been for the Syracuse Orange. Through the past ten years, Orange fans have had its fair share of triumph and disappointment. But one thing is clear – being a Syracuse fan has never been dull. Here are the top ten stories from the past ten years.

NUMBER 10 – FIRST ROUND UPSETS AND NIT TRIPS

Although some may say that this was the decade for Syracuse basketball because of the 2003 National Championship, Syracuse fell far from grace in the following years.

In the 2004-05 season, the Orange started the season No. 5 in the country and had its eyes fixed firmly toward a trip to the final four. But forward Hakim Warrick’s final game with Syracuse ended on a bitter note as No. 4 seed Syracuse was upset by No. 13 Vermont in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

It would start a string of four dark years for Syracuse, as it failed to advance past the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The following year, No. 5 Syracuse was upset by No. 12 Oklahoma State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The next two seasons, Syracuse failed to qualify for the dance, as the Orange were banished to two consecutive NIT bids.

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Top 5 Syracuse moments from 2009

Syracuse provided no shortage of headlines in 2009. From Syracuse’s dazzling six overtime victory over Connecticut in the Big East tournament to the upheaval in the Orange football program, it has been an eventful year for the Orange faithful. Here are the top 5 story lines from the year:

SIX IN THE CITY

There were nine players on the floor tugging at their shorts, trying to keep from cramping as Syracuse and Connecticut were playing their six overtime in what will surely be remembered as the greatest college basketball game of the decade.

Then, there was Justin Thomas, a Syracuse walk on, doing jumping jacks while playing the seven most important minutes of his life.

Syracuse (then-No. 20 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) had so few options at the end of their 127-117 victory over Connecticut (then-No. 4 ESPN/USA Today, No. 3 AP) the quarterfinals of the 2009 Big East tournament that Thomas, who had only played nine games that entire season, was inserted into the game.

Thomas would go on to grab a key rebound as Syracuse outlasted Connecticut.

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Triche eases into starting role

Louis Dale was helpless.

The 2007-08 Ivy League Player of the Year and Honorable Mention All-American feebly chased Syracuse guard Brandon Triche as the true freshman barreled down the lane toward the hoop at the Jim Boeheim Court.

With a step on Dale, Triche was met in the lane by 2008-09 Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year Jeff Foote, a towering 7-foot, 265 pound center along with another Cornell defender. Triche split the help and, while reducing the rest of the Big Red to spectators, gracefully kissed the ball off the backboard and through the basket while drawing contact from Dale for a conventional 3-point play.

Dale, a senior, could only throw his hands up in disgust as Triche added three of his team-high 21 points that night en route to a 88-73 victory on Nov. 24. What was more frustrating for Dale was that with Triche manning the top of the Syracuse 2-3 zone, Dale was held to just three points on 1-for-6 shooting and five turnovers.

“One of the main focal points of my game was just being strong,” Triche said. “I work out every day just to be that way.”

Syracuse fans, meet your new starting point guard.

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Rautins becomes more than just a shooter

The Syracuse faithful inside the Carrier Dome were stunned.

Their beloved Orange, who was ranked No. 14 in the country, was being tracked down by Coppin State – who was 1-7 at the time – late in the second half of a game that should’ve been well in hand at that point.

It was December 28, 2008, a time in Syracuse’s schedule reserved for blowout victories against inferior opponents. Instead, with 8:35 left, Syracuse clung to a 61-57 lead, and was searching desperately for any kind of spark.

And that is when junior guard Andy Rautins took over.

Over the next three minutes, Rautins would carry the Orange with three 3-pointers, and with 5:38 remaining, the Orange had established a 72-59 lead en route to an 82-71 win. All was safe, except for Gerry McNamara’s all-time school record for three point goals in a game.

McNamara now had company on top of that list as Rautins finished with 29 points on 9-of-16 from downtown, tying McNamara’s record that was set against BYU in the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2004.

“That’s great company,” Rautins said. “[McNamara] was a legend here.”

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Cuse Hoops 09-10 Preview: Johnson Leads Balanced Syracuse Attack

Over his more than 30 years at Syracuse, head coach Jim Boeheim has never been shy about predictions.

In the fall of 2002, Boeheim touted Gerry McNamara and Carmelo Anthony as two of college basketball’s top prospects. He had the same thing to say about Jonny Flynn and Donte Greene two years ago. As it turned out, Boeheim was spot on with all of these predictions.

This year, Boeheim hopes he can be accurate once again.

With the offseason departures of Flynn, Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf – three of Syracuse’s top players from last year’s Sweet 16 team – Boeheim has wasted no time anointing Wesley Johnson as the heir apparent to carry the Orange back to the NCAA Tournament.

“He’ll go out and play and I’m confident that he’s a very good player,” Boeheim said.

While Boeheim is making another preseason prediction, Boeheim’s prophecy isn’t just based on purely on hype. The 6-foot-7 junior transferred from Iowa State following his sophomore season after averaging 12 points and being named honorable mention All Big 12. All of this, while playing on a bum ankle.

“Wesley Johnson has already proven that he can play in college,” Boeheim said. “He had big games at Iowa State. He’s already shown what he can do.”

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Orange shooters find range as Syracuse advances

Andy Rautins and Eric Devendorf returned to form, Syracuse’s zone baffled and frustrated Pac-10 Player of the Year James Harden, and the Orange moved on to the Sweet 16 with a 78-67 win over the Sun Devils.

The tandem are Syracuse’s two primary outside threats, but both failed to find the range in Syracuse’s opening round game against Stephen F. Austin, going a combined 3-for-17 from the field.

But that was not the case on Sunday, as the two guards accounted for 38 points on 11-of-24 shooting.

“Regardless as a shooter you have to keep shooting no matter what,” Rautins said. “Eric and I, we didn’t shoot the ball well last game and we came out and were stroking it well today. That’s what good shooters do, they bounce back and they stay confident.”

The two came out firing early, as Syracuse (28-9) raced out to a 41-32 lead at halftime and built a 15 point second-half lead. It seemed the Orange would put the game out of reach as Sun Devil center Jeff Pendergraph fouled out.

But Arizona State (25-10) responded with a 10-2 run, capped by a Ty Abbott 3-pointer to pull within 61-57 with 6:38 left.

That’s when Rautins and Devendorf took over.

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Orange dominate paint, rolls past Lumberjacks

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim’s message was clear – get the ball inside.

The Orange certainly heeded his message.

Forward Rick Jackson (6-foot-9, 240 pounds) and center Arinze Onuaku (6-9, 275) combined for 24 points and 17 rebounds as No. 3 seed Syracuse easily dispatched No. 14 seed and NCAA Tournament newcomer Stephen F. Austin 59-44 in opening round South Regional play.

“Coach was saying in the huddle, ‘We’re a bigger, stronger team, let’s pound it down low,’” forward Paul Harris said. “We got it down low.”

Syracuse quickly established its inside presence as Jackson blocked Lumberjack center Matt Kingsley on the first possession.

The Orange brought the ball down the floor and immediately threw it down low to Jackson who found Onuaku for an easy lay-in. On the ensuing possession, Jackson took an entry pass for an emphatic slam, which propelled Syracuse to a 20-4 lead.

The Lumberjacks would never be able to get back within single digits.

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Flynn’s slam keys SU win over Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Jonny Flynn didn’t change directions on his way to the basket. By doing so, he changed the direction of the game.

Flynn’s emphatic second-half slam over Rutgers guard Michael Rosario awoke Syracuse (No. 9 ESPN/USA Today, No. 11 AP) from its lethargy as the Orange defeated Rutgers, 82-66. Flynn finished with 15 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and zero turnovers, playing all 40 minutes.

“That was a play that got us excited,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “He was really good tonight.”

Syracuse (16-1, 4-0 Big East) fell behind 27-20 with 9:03 left in the first half as Rutgers (9-8, 0-4) found the soft spots in the Syracuse zone. The Scarlet Knights shot 50 percent in the first half, with Rosario leading the way on 5-of-11 shooting from the field.

“In the first half we didn’t rebound,” Boeheim said. “Rosario, (Corey) Chandler, and (Anthony) Farmer can all shoot it.”

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Behind Rautins, Orange rally past Cavaliers

After shooting a combined 4-for-20 in Syracuse’s first three games of the season, there was cause for concern that Syracuse’s sharp-shooting guard, Andy Rautins, had lost his touch.

But Rautins erased all doubt of any kind of slump in Syracuse’s (6-0, 0-0 Big East) 73-70 victory over Virginia (3-2, 0-0 ACC). The redshirt junior led the way with 15 points on 4-for-9 shooting from 3-point land, including two 3-pointers to key a 20-to-6 second-half run, as the Orange overcame an 11-point halftime deficit.

It was the third straight solid outing for Rautins, who since his first three games, has shot a combined 12-for-26 (46 percent) against Florida, Kansas and Virginia.

“Obviously when we have Andy out there in a small lineup, we have a weapon,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “He’s a hard guard for the other team.”

Syracuse appeared sluggish in the opening half, as Virginia opened with a 10-3 run and built a 13-point lead. The Cavaliers shot 47 percent from the field while limiting Syracuse to just 36 percent.

Virginia also sealed off the interior for Syracuse, as center Arinze Onuaku was held without a first-half field goal.

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Cuse Hoops 08-09 preview: Healthy Syracuse looking for redemption

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim had coached more than 1,000 games over 30 seasons, led a team to a national championship and was there at the formation of the Big East conference.

But in all of his years of meandering the sideline, not once had he ever done what he was about to do.

Like he had done so many times in the past, Boeheim motioned to the bench, and one of his players sprung up from his seat, ripped off his warm-ups, and entered the game. Taken out of context, there was nothing particularly strange or out of the ordinary.

So what was so special about this mundane, routine maneuver?

Well, the player that Boeheim had just signaled for was walk-on Justin Thomas.

Certainly, Boeheim has played walk-ons before. Boeheim was himself a walk-on before he went on to become the captain of Syracuse’s 1966 basketball team. But walk-ons are supposed to be used in one situation: Lopsided early-season games.

But this game was neither a blowout nor was it November.

This was a Big East game, and the game was far from out of hand.

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