Johnson leads No. 5 Orange to beat Marquette
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP)—In case the Big East and the rest of the nation needed another reminder of how well the Orange are playing: Syracuse can win without Andy Rautins scoring a basket.
Shutting out Syracuse’s second-leading scorer didn’t get Marquette anywhere on Saturday. The fifth-ranked Orange responded by showing how much depth they have in rolling to a 76-71 victory to get off to a 19-1 start for only the fifth time in school history.
Wes Johnson scored 22 points and added 15 rebounds while three other players — including reserve forward Kris Joseph—picked up the slack by reaching double-figures in points.
“That just shows how good of a basketball team we are,” said Joseph, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds. “Andy being shut down today was a great thing to see, because now we know what everyone else is capable of.”
The Orange improved to 6-1 in the Big East and have won six straight since an 82-72 home loss to Pittsburgh on Jan. 2.
Darius Johnson-Odom scored 17 and Lazar Hayward added 16 for Marquette (11-8, 2-5), which lost its seventh straight road game. Though they’ve won two games at neutral sites this season, the Golden Eagles haven’t won a true road game since a 78-72 win at Georgetown last Feb. 21.
Rautins shrugged off his 0-for-2 performance, noting how well the forwards took advantage of the mismatches down low in a contest that would’ve been a blowout if not for Syracuse’s defensive let down in the final 4 minutes.
“If you can’t score in one aspect, you find other ways to win,” said Rautins, the Orange’s top 3-point threat, who’s averaging just under 11 points a game.
After trailing by as many as 16, Marquette rallied to within 70-64 when Jimmy Butler completed a three-point play with 2:09 left, and Johnson-Odom hit a 3-pointer 18 seconds later.
The Golden Eagles never got closer until Maurice Acker hit a 3-pointer with 8 seconds left, cutting the score to 75-71.
Marquette coach Buzz Williams all but treated the loss as a moral victory.
“It’s always bad news when we lose,” Williams said, before assessing how good the Orange are, while paying tribute to Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. “There’s very few places you can go where the head coach is already in the hall of fame, and the floor is named after him, and the team is the No. 5-ranked team in the country. That’s a bad combination.”
The Golden Eagles proved feisty, at one point building a seven-point lead 15 minutes into the first half before running out of steam.
Syracuse never trailed after Johnson scored on a transition layup to open the second half and break a 34-tie. Arinze Onuaku scored on an hard layup at the post, putting the Orange ahead 43-37 and capping a 16-3 run that had begun when Brandon Triche scored on a transition break with 3:44 left in the first half.
The Orange then got the crowd of 29,011 on its feet during a 1:05 stretch in which they scored three consecutive baskets, capped by Joseph feeding Johnson for a perfectly timed alley-oop to put Syracuse up 56-46 with 11:34 left.
Onuaku and Rick Jackson both scored 12 points for Syracuse, as the Orange specifically attacked the basket, taking advantage of their size advantage after Hayward was limited by his third foul 1:16 into the second half.
Boeheim wasn’t altogether pleased with how his team let up in the end.
“We played probably the best basketball we’ve played all year for that 15 minutes of the second half. Then I think we got comfortable,” Boeheim said. “We were very bad in the last 4 minutes. We made enough plays to hang in there, but it wasn’t a good way to end a well-played game.”
Marquette scored 24 points off turnovers, including 16 in the second half. The Orange, however, dominated the paint, outscoring the Golden Eagles 56-22 from in close.
Hayward was upbeat despite the loss because of how well the Golden Eagles competed on defense in containing Rautins.
“Playing a team like this is really difficult,” Hayward said. “They have a very good bench and it’s kind of hard to guard a guy like that. So I guess we kind of got lucky.”
Marquette freshman guard Junior Cadougan made his college debut, playing a 3-minute stretch early in the second half. Cadougan was expected to be the Golden Eagles starting point guard this year before tearing his Achilles’ tendon in September.