Big shots by Devendorf, Rautins lift ‘Cuse, 78-67
MIAMI (AP)—With Syracuse’s season on the cusp of slipping away, Jonny Flynn found himself getting the majority of Arizona State’s defensive attention.
Eric Devendorf, Andy Rautins and the Orange exploited that perfectly.
Flynn set up Rautins’ 3-pointer that started a game-saving Syracuse run, then hit Devendorf for two more 3s less than a minute apart shortly after, and the third-seeded Orange held off the sixth-seeded Sun Devils 78-67 in a South Regional second-round game Sunday.
“All three of us were just patient and we took what was open,” Devendorf said. “When we do that, good things happen.”
Good things like a trip to Memphis, for example.
Devendorf finished with 21 points and Rautins added 17 for Syracuse (28-9), which moves on to play Blake Griffin and second-seeded Oklahoma (29-5) in Memphis on Friday, a spot in the regional final against either North Carolina or Gonzaga at stake for the winner.
Some reward, said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who got the 799th win of his career and moved into a tie with former Louisville coach Denny Crum for seventh in all-time NCAA tournament coaching wins with 42.
“We’re going to play the team that would be the No. 1 seed in this tournament if it weren’t for Griffin getting injured,” Boeheim said. “If he hadn’t gotten hurt, they’d be the No. 1 seed. That’s enough to worry about.”
Rihards Kuksiks scored a career-high 20 points, and Ty Abbott also finished with 20 for Arizona State (25-10), which struggled mightily against Syracuse’s zone and led for only 31 seconds all afternoon.
James Harden, the Pac-10 player of the year, was held to 10 points—all in the second half—on 2-for-10 shooting for Arizona State.
“They did a great job of covering a lot of ground,” Arizona State point guard Derek Glasser said. “It doesn’t seem like they’re there, and then all of a sudden they’ve got two guys there. You know, they do a phenomenal job of guarding the paint and covering a lot of ground.”
Rick Jackson scored 13 points, Arinze Onuaku added 12 and Flynn scored 11 for Syracuse, which has won nine of its last 10 games.
Flynn added seven assists, the most crucial three of those coming in a span of 2 1/2 minutes down the stretch.
Down by as many as 15 in the second half and still trailing by 12 after Jeff Pendergraph fouled out with 10:19 left, the Sun Devils sprung to life. A 10-2 spurt over the next 4 minutes ended on Abbott’s 3-pointer, and suddenly, Syracuse’s once-comfortable lead was only 61-57.
During a time-out, Boeheim huddled his guys and said, as Flynn recollected, “Look at the score, look at the time, and we’re winning the game.”
In other words, relax and watch Flynn work.
Out of that time-out, Flynn got the ball to Rautins for a 3—“the difference in the game,” Boeheim said—which was followed by Arizona State getting two free throws from Eric Boateng.
In Jonny they trust, and the next two possessions showed why.
With four Arizona State players looking his way as he worked inside, Flynn passed diagonally out to Devendorf for a 3-pointer, then split two defenders atop the Sun Devils’ zone on the next trip, causing another to shift away from Devendorf and into his path.
Flynn tossed to the now-open Devendorf, who posed for a second or two after the left-corner 3 dropped from the net. Syracuse’s lead was back to 70-59 and the outcome wasn’t in doubt again.
“The best point guard in America,” Devendorf said.
And now Boeheim’s first chance at No. 800—perhaps fittingly—comes with a spot in the Elite Eight on the line.
It’ll be the first Syracuse-Oklahoma matchup since the 2003 East Regional final, when Carmelo Anthony and the then-Orangemen prevailed 63-47 on the way to the national championship.
Syracuse and Oklahoma have two common opponents this season. Both beat Coppin State, and the Orange also defeated Kansas—which downed the Sooners 87-78 last month, albeit when Oklahoma was without Griffin because of a concussion.
“To win two big games down here, it just feels great,” Onuaku said. “Everyone is playing the right way. The chemistry is clicking.”
Everything—well, not quite, but darn close to every shot Arizona State could get in the opening half was a 3-pointer, as Syracuse’s zone clogged the lane. The Sun Devils had 26 shots in the first 20 minutes, with only six of those coming from inside the arc.
If it wasn’t for Kuksiks going 5-for-9 on 3-pointers in the half, it could have quickly been a Syracuse rout.
“There’s not a lot of openings to be found because they have great length, they have terrific athletes, and they cover ground so well,” Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. “So what may seem momentarily open is quickly closed.”
Just like Arizona State’s chances in the second half.
For a moment, they were there. And in a flash, Flynn, Devendorf and Rautins slammed that door shut on the Sun Devils’ season.
“We beat two teams,” Jackson said. “But we’ve got four more, or three more, or something like that, to go. It’s a great feeling.”