CBKB: No. 3 Syracuse wins 10th in row, tops Cincinnati 71-54
AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI — Kris Joseph hit a pair of 3s that sparked Syracuse's decisive second-half run Sunday, and the Orange kept the best start in school history going with a 71-54 victory over Cincinnati, their 10th in a row.
Syracuse (23-1, 10-1 Big East) closed the game with a 28-5 run that featured Joseph's two 3-pointers and a lot of good defense. Andy Rautins led the Orange with 20 points.
The Bearcats (14-9, 5-6) fell apart down the stretch, getting only one field goal and three free throws after pulling ahead 49-43 with 12:26 to go. Ibrahima Thomas led Cincinnati with a season-high 13 points.
Wes Johnson, who fell hard in Syracuse's win over Providence on Tuesday, was back in the starting lineup but played only 23 minutes. The forward took only three shots and had five points.
Johnson, a forward who averages a team-high 16.7 points, played only three minutes in the second half against Providence on Tuesday after he was fouled while going for a lob pass and hit the court hard. He was sore and missed practice during the week.
Johnson is a key component in an offense that is scoring 82.5 points a game, second-best in the league. But he was on the bench down the stretch on Sunday, letting his teammates take over.
Cincinnati was coming off a lackluster 85-68 loss at Notre Dame that severely dented its hopes of making the NCAA tournament. The loss left the Bearcats tied with two other teams for eighth place in the Big East.
Thomas, who hasn't done much in the last half-dozen games, got Cincinnati off to an encouraging start. He scored seven points — more than he had in any of the last six games — during an opening 11-2 run. The Bearcats patiently passed around the perimeter of the Orange zone, then got the ball inside to draw a foul or get a layup.
It didn't take long for Syracuse to figure it out.
Cincinnati went more than six minutes without scoring, helping the Orange pull off an 11-0 run that featured points by five players. The Bearcats passed the ball around the perimeter without finding an opening, drawing boos from the crowd. They had a shot clock violation, a blocked shot, a missed 25-footer and another rushed miss on consecutive possessions.
The lead went back and forth for the rest of the half, which ended with Syracuse up 32-30. Both teams rank near the bottom of the league in free throw shooting and had a rough time in the half — Cincinnati was 5 of 11, Syracuse 3 of 9.
Syracuse got the ball inside and went on a 6-0 run early in the second half for its biggest lead to that point, 38-32. After a timeout, Cincinnati pulled off its best offensive spurt, working the ball around for open shots. Cashmere Wright's open 3 concluded a 15-2 run that put the Bearcats up 49-43 and got the crowd of 11,045 revved.
That's when the Orange took over, holding the Bearcats to one field goal the rest of the way.