Syracuse cuts down Lumberjacks
Miami, FL (Sports Network) - Jonny Flynn scored 16 points and Paul Harris grabbed 16 rebounds, leading Syracuse to a 59-44 victory over Stephen F. Austin in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at American Airlines Arena.
Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson each chipped in 12 points for the Orange (27-9), who are seeded third in the South Region and on Sunday will face sixth seed Arizona State in the second round. The Sun Devils beat Temple, 66-57, on Friday.
Syracuse, back in the NCAA Tournament after a two-year absence, snapped a three-game tourney losing streak. The Orange were bounced in the first round of the 2006 and '05 tournaments, last capturing an NCAA game five years ago to the day with a 72-70 win over Maryland in the second round of the 2004 event.
"We didn't want to get caught up in being in the NCAA Tournament, just being in Miami in the nice weather and just in this atmosphere," said Flynn. "We wanted to come out here and make a statement and make a run in this tournament."
Eric Devendorf added 10 points for Syracuse, which dominated inside. Jackson contributed 10 rebounds for the Orange, who held a 55-34 edge on the boards.
Benson Akpan scored 12 points and hauled in 10 rebounds for Stephen F. Austin (24-8), which earned its first NCAA Tournament bid by capturing the Southland Conference title. The Lumberjacks' leading scorer, Matt Kingsley, the Southland Conference Player of the Year, was just 1-of-8 from the field and scored only two points, well below his 19.7 average.
Stephen F. Austin shot just 24.7 percent from the field and made only 2-of-21 three-point tries.
Syracuse scored the first six points of the game and built a 12-2 lead on a jumper by Devendorf just under seven minutes into the contest. The Lumberjacks had only a pair of free throws and missed their first eight shots from the field until Josh Alexander's layup with 12:46 remaining in the half.
"I know we can't make every shot, but I mean, I missed some easy layups, jump shots," said Alexander. "They were giving us the jump shot and we just had to stand there and hit them in the first couple minutes of the game, and we just couldn't hit. That's how we got off to such a slow start."
Flynn's layup midway through the period gave the Orange a commanding 20-4 cushion, but Stephen F. Austin followed with a 10-5 burst to pull within 11.
Syracuse, though, again established control with the next six points and a drive to the hoop by Flynn with two minutes to play in the half gave the Orange a 38-18 advantage. The Lumberjacks scored the final four points and went into the break down by 16.
"We played well the first 15, 16 minutes of the game on offense," said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. "We really moved the ball and got the ball to people as well as we have all year. We got off to such a good start. They got off to a bad shooting start. They couldn't make anything and we were doing a good job of finding them."
Flynn and Jackson each scored 10 points in the first half for Syracuse, which connected on 15-of-24 shots for a 62.5 percent clip against a Stephen F. Austin team that was third in the nation in field-goal percentage defense at 37.2 percent.
The Lumberjacks made only 9-of-33 attempts (27.3 percent) in the opening 20 minutes and missed each of their 11 three-point tries.
Syracuse opened the second half with six straight points as part of a 12-2 run and built a 50-24 lead on a jumper by Flynn, but Stephen F. Austin tried to mount a comeback with 11 unanswered points. Akpan's layup with 11 1/2 minutes remaining pulled the Lumberjacks to within 15.
The Orange responded with six straight to again push the lead back over 20 with 7 1/2 minutes to play, but the game turned sloppy down the stretch. Syracuse finished the contest with 21 turnovers, including 12 in the second half.
"We had too many turnovers, but they're a good defensive team," Boeheim added. "We weren't making anything, so we forced some things."
Harris scored six points in the victory...Syracuse long-distance threat Andy Rautins was 0-for-6 from beyond the arc and failed to score...The Orange made only 2-of-16 three-point attempts...Syracuse played without forward Kristof Ongenaet, who was suffering from flu-like symptoms...The Southland Conference has just one main field NCAA Tournament victory since 1986. Northwestern State, as a No. 3 seed in 2006, beat Iowa. Northwestern State also won an opening round game in 2001.
03/20 16:46:19 ET