NCAA basketball: Orange are their own worst enemy

Published March 25, 2010 10:22 pm
Syracuse can't overcome early malaise, turnovers.
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The Syracuse that earned a No. 1 seed was on display for about 15 minutes Thursday night.

Andy Rautins was making fast-break 3-pointers,Wesley Johnson was explosive on the inside and effective from out. Scoop Jardine was slithering past Butler's defenders. And the defense? So stymied by the Orange's defense was Butler that the Bulldogs went nearly six minutes between field goals in the second half.

But it was how Syracuse played at the beginning and end of Thursday's game in the West Regional at Energy Solutions Arena that ensured the favored Orange would be the second No. 1-seed upset in the NCAA Tournament.

The Orange registered 18 turnovers, 14 of which came in either the first half or in the final four minutes. Elite Eight-bound Butler, conversely, committed just seven turnovers.

"I'm really at a loss," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "We haven't done that. A couple games throughout the whole year maybe where we've turned it over, but not like that."

The Orange didn't score their first field goal until the 12:57 mark of the first half and went on to score fewer points, 25, in the first half than it had in any game all season.

It came on a clumsy, left-handed layup by Rick Jackson that teetered on the rim before falling through. For much of the game, it seemed Syracuse might come to resemble that one shot -- awkward, struggling to get over the top, but ultimately falling the right way.

In the second half, Syracuse canceled out its earlier misdeeds. A 10-point halftime deficit and a dozen first half turnovers became mere stats after a run triggered by a transition 3 by Rautins less than two minutes into the second half.

"We were never in a situation or a position that we were going to blow the game open," Boeheim said. "We were behind the whole game. We were fighting to get back to even the whole game."

Johnson, Syracuse's Naismith Award finalist, finished with 17 points and nine rebounds. But armed with a 54-50 lead with 5:23 remaining, Johnson and his teammates vanished offensively, while Butler ran off 11 straight points before the parade of intentional fouls began.

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