West Virginia 61, Syracuse 74
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP)—Syracuse center Arinze Onuaku leads the nation in shooting percentage and has been a key performer all season. Against West Virginia on Wednesday night, he just had to stand in the lane to give the Orange the boost they needed.
Guards Eric Devendorf and Jonny Flynn both scored 22 points, most on drives through the lane, to lead No. 20 Syracuse over West Virginia 74-61 to snap a three-game losing streak.
The 6-foot-9, 275-pound Onuaku, shooting 70.6 percent for the season, played only 18 minutes because of tendinitis in his right knee. But he served as a big decoy to open the inside for Syracuse’s guards, taking only five shots and scoring just four points in 18 minutes.
“Things were open for Jonny and me. With Arinze in the game, it really opens things for us,” said Devendorf, who combined with Flynn to score 62 points in Syracuse’s loss last week at Providence. “We feel we can beat anybody 1-on-1.”
Syracuse (18-5, 6-4 Big East), which had lost four of five, avenged a 20-point loss at West Virginia (15-7, 4-5) last season by going on a 24-11 run early in the second half. Devendorf had 12 points and Flynn added eight to key the surge.
“This is the way we have to play,” Flynn said. “Our defensive intensity is lacking sometimes. If we play like this, keep our hands up and limit shots, then I think we can become the team we want to be.”
Paul Harris had 14 points and 13 rebounds for Syracuse to snap out of a three-game funk in which he had just 23 points and 19 rebounds. The Orange got a subpar performance from guard Andy Rautins, who missed the previous game with a sprained ankle. Rautins failed to score, missing all four of his shots, and committed three turnovers.
The Mountaineers beat Georgetown 75-58 on the road last month, just the Hoyas’ second home loss in 33 games, and West Virginia’s Big East losses were to No. 1 Connecticut, No. 5 Louisville, No. 6 Pitt and No. 8 Marquette. With Da’Sean Butler consistently scoring over 20 points a game, the Mountaineers figured to be a challenge for the injury-plagued Orange but weren’t.
Butler had 18 of his 23 points in the second half to keep the Mountaineers within striking distance, but Alex Ruoff finished with 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting. They were the only players in double figures as West Virginia shot 35.8 percent (24-for-67), including 7-for-27 from beyond the arc.
“We missed a whole bunch of them (shots), and the people that missed them normally don’t miss them,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “They’re good, and we weren’t nearly as aggressive and physical as we need to be to beat a team like that.”
“They got in the lane whenever they wanted to,” Ruoff added. “Effortwise, we didn’t really have it, myself included. I let the team down.”
The Orange were 29-for-62 (46.8 percent) from the field and scored 21 fastbreak points.
After Butler’s layup drew the Mountaineers within 37-31 in the first minute of the second half, Devendorf fed Harris for a layup, Flynn followed with a 3 from the left wing and then stole the ball and passed ahead to Devendorf for a fastbreak layup and a 44-31 lead less than 2 minutes into the period.
“We didn’t really play with that much energy in the first half,” said Butler, who scored West Virginia’s first and last baskets of the period, including a buzzer-beating 3 that pulled the Mountaineers within 37-29. “The second half we came out with a lot of energy, but they came out with maximum energy. We were standing there watching a lot. That really killed us on a lot of plays.”
The lead ballooned to 62-42 midway through the second half after Flynn converted a three-point play, Devendorf followed with a layup and Flynn added a free throw.
Butler, 9-of-21 from the field, almost single-handedly gave the Mountaineers one last chance. He hit two 3s and Ruoff’s second and final 3 had West Virginia within 68-59 with 3:36 left.
Devendorf responded with a lefty layup and fed Harris for a resounding dunk to end any chance at a comeback.
West Virginia was patient in attacking the Syracuse zone, but the Mountaineers missed their first five attempts from beyond the arc to set the tone for a long night.
“You can say what you want to say, but three of our top six guys are freshmen, and I think the reality is some of them are finding out there are some guys in this league that can really play,” Huggins said.