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December 30, 2009

Orange squeak past Pirates

NEWARK, N.J.(AP) Down by six points to Seton Hall almost midway through the second half, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim called a timeout and reminded his team that they were playing a Big East Conference game, and it was time to get physical.

The message from the boss was heard loud and clear.

Wesley Johnson had 20 points and a career-best 19 rebounds and the Orangemen came out of that timeout to run off 15 straight points in an 80-73 victory Tuesday night.

Johnson said Boeheim read the team the riot act during the timeout.

``I told them that we had to get tough. We weren't tough and we hadn't had a tough game all year, at least not physical like this, you know, Big East tough,'' Boeheim said. ``It had to become more of a physical game and we weren't being physical. But after the timeout, we made a few good defensive plays and that got us going.

``... It was a toughness win,'' Boeheim added. ``We have to be tough every night and have to find a way to be tough every night.''

Johnson had 13 points and 12 rebounds in the second half - one more than his previous career high - in helping Syracuse come back. And he wasn't the only one who stepped up. Kris Joseph added 16 points and provided the other part of the spark in the big spurt as the Orangemen (13-0, 1-0) continued their best start since winning their first 19 games to start the 1999-2000 season.

``I know Coach Boeheim was angry and he was right,'' Johnson said. ``We weren't playing the way we normally play. We were going through the motions and weren't being aggressive. We really had to step up. I just had to calm down and do what is expected of me. I had to be aggressive, especially with a smaller guy on me.''

Arinze Onuaku added 12 points and Scoop Jardine had 10, all in the first half, for Syracuse.

Jeremy Hazell, who had a career-best 41 points in an overtime loss to No. 6 West Virginia on Saturday, almost single-handedly kept the Pirates (9-3, 0-2) in the game with 38 points. Herb Pope added 15 points and 17 rebounds, his ninth double-double of the season.

Johnson and Joseph scored all 15 points in Syracuse's big run that turned a 57-51 deficit into a 66-57 lead with 6:11 to play. Johnson had nine points and Joseph had six.

However, Seton Hall would not go away.

A steal and a three-point play by Hazell cut the margin to 72-68 with 1:09 to play and a rebound follow by Pope made it 73-70 with 31.6 seconds left.

Joseph scored the backbreaker on the ensuing inbounds play, taking a length of the court pass and converting an acrobatic shot into a three-point play.

``We knew coming in that Seton Hall was a great team, but they were playing better than us and we weren't playing the type of basketball that Syracuse is known for playing,'' Joseph said. ``We started slow, but we tied the game at half, so that was a sign. We had to be more aggressive down the stretch, play tough, going to the line, connecting on our free throws. That definitely was the key.''

Andy Rautins followed with a breakaway layup and two free throws and the Orangemen were home free in the game that featured two of the nation's top scoring teams.

Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez said his team is not going to win games against ranked teams shooting 34 percent from the field and 27 percent from 3-point range. He noted that during the drought his team got the ball inside and missed six chances.

``We did not score when we got in the trenches,'' Gonzalez said. ``Syracuse is long and has great length and makes you work around the rim. We came up empty and those possessions killed us. I thought they were the difference in the game.''

Seton Hall used a 6-0 run to open a 57-51 lead on a slam by Pope with 12:55 left. The Pirates didn't score another point for almost 7 minutes.

Joseph started the 15-point run with two free throws and then Johnson followed with a floater and a layup after picking up a loose ball under the basket.

Joseph gave Syracuse the lead with a breakaway jam with 9:24 to go and Johnson followed with a rebound basket. Joseph scored another big dunk on an alley-oop pass and Johnson finished the run with a free throw and a breakaway layup.

Hazell had 20 points in the first half but it wasn't enough to get the Pirates the lead as Syracuse closed with an 8-0 run to tie the game at 43. Jardine fueled the comeback scoring 10 points in the final 7 minutes.

The key for the Pirates was their ability for second-chance points. They had 14 offensive rebounds that led to 15 points.

The victory was the Orangemen's fourth straight over Seton Hall and fifth in six games. Syracuse leads the overall series 44-15.



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