SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP)—Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has a nice luxury going early in the season. Everybody is contributing.
Tournament most valuable player Eric Devendorf had 19 points to lead six players in double figures, and the 20th-ranked Orange beat Texas-El Paso 83-69 on Sunday night in the finale of the Black Coaches Association Invitational.
“I like our balance,” Boeheim said after the 729th victory of his career moved him past former Missouri mentor Norm Stewart to 16th on the career Division I list. “This team is playing a whole different way. Everybody’s in different roles. Eric did a real good job taking the point for a large part of the game, made some really good plays.”
So did reserve Matt Gorman, who had 12 points for the second straight game. And Darryl Watkins, who finished with 10 points, eight rebounds, and five blocks in just 21 minutes. And Demetris Nichols with 12 points, freshman Paul Harris with 11 and Josh Wright with 10.
“You’re tough to beat when you’ve got all your guys scoring and contributing,” said Gorman, who also had four blocks in the game and finished the three-day round-robin with 29 points. “That helps out a lot. When we have that going on, our team can roll through anyone.”
On this night, it was the Miners (2-1) who fell in a physical game that featured 27 fouls by UTEP.
Syracuse (3-0), despite no points in the first half from ailing forward Terrence Roberts, led for most of the period and began to assume control in the final minutes before the break.
The Orange went up 24-19 on a turnaround shot off the glass by Watkins at 8:28. UTEP tied it at 24-all less than two minutes later on Malik Alvin’s 3-pointer from the top of the key and two free throws by Darren Clarke.
But with Wright drawing Boeheim’s ire and a spot on the bench after three early turnovers, Andy Rautins hit a 3-pointer from right wing just 13 seconds after entering the game to ignite a 14-2 run by the Orange. It was the only basket of the game for the sophomore.
Harris and Devendorf followed with shots off the glass to put Syracuse up 31-24 with 5:05 left before Victor Ramalho replied for the Miners from in close.
Less than a minute later, Watkins headed to the bench with a bloody nose after scoring in the paint and getting fouled by Ramalho. Nichols stepped in to make the free throw and complete a three-point play that gave the Orange a 34-26 lead with 4:35 remaining.
Then it was Gorman’s turn. He hit a hook in the lane for a 10-point lead and converted a jumper in the lane to help send the Orange into the locker room with a 42-33 halftime edge.
The Miners pulled to 47-40 on a three-point play by Stefon Jackson with 17:13 remaining, but Syracuse scored the next 13 points to put them back on their heels. A putback by Gorman and a free throw by Wright gave Syracuse its largest lead, 60-40, at 12:21.
“I’m proud of my team. We had a chance. We all fought hard and everyone battled,” UTEP coach Tony Barbee said. “They made some tough plays. They came up with loose balls and loose rebounds and we didn’t. I thought that was the difference.
“That’s a true top-20 team we were playing, and that’s where we’re trying to get this program to. It gave our guys a bar we have to reach.”
The Orange, who beat St. Francis and Penn in the first two rounds, held the Miners to 30.3 percent shooting and registered 11 steals and 11 blocks.
“Defensively, we played great,” Devendorf said. “We have some things to work on in practice, but I think we’re going to be all right. Our team improved in every game.”
“Terrence was a little off tonight, and everybody else picked him up,” Boeheim added. “This a good win. We gained a lot of experience.”
Jackson and Clarke led UTEP with 17 points apiece, Alvin had 11, and Kevin Henderson had nine points and seven rebounds. Marvin Kilgore, who had reached double figures in the first two games, scored just two points.