Posted January 25, 2014

Syracuse survives upset scare from Miami, more Saturday afternoon games

Duke, Florida State Seminoles, Iowa Hawkeyes, Miami Hurricanes, Northwestern, Syracuse
Jerami Grant (3) throws down a dunk during Syracuse's hard-fought win over Miami. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Jerami Grant (3) throws down a dunk during Syracuse’s hard-fought win over Miami. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

No. 2 Syracuse 64, Miami 52: Examining the Hurricanes roster, it’s hard to see many wins at all with this team. Miami lost just about every important contributor from last year’s squad, and Jim Larranaga has had to dig deep to keep the ‘Canes competitive in conference. He slowed the team’s pace down and tried to keep games from getting out of hand, doing everything he can to level the playing field.

Counter that to Syracuse. With the roster the Orange have assembled, there might not be a scarier team on paper in college basketball. Syracuse is intimidating on both sides of the ball and its balanced mixture of post and perimeter players makes the Orange a nightmare to face. The zone’s length dares teams to be equally patient and hot from beyond the arc, which is a lot to ask.

The best you can hope for is Syracuse to make its own mistakes and capitalize, which Miami did late in the first half in Coral Gables. The Orange turned it over on a bunch of possessions and didn’t step out to cover the shooters, and the Hurricanes quickly took an 18-point lead down to three before Rakeem Christmas made it a five-point advantage at the half. ‘Cuse only hit 6-of-13 free throws before the break and finished just 17-of-27 on the day.

The second half was more of the same, as Miami continued to hit outside shots and funneled Syracuse into the lane, daring its lanky forwards to make shots rather than putting the ball in super freshman Tyler Ennis’ hands. The ‘Canes took a one-point lead with 8:20 to play off a Davon Reed and-one opportunity for their first lead since it was 2-0. That’s when Ennis took over, showing the type of stoic evenness that has made him one of the most important players in the country.

Ennis finished with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists, and his calming influence allowed the Orange to wrest control of the game back from the Hurricanes. After it was tied at 49, the Orange finished the game on a 15-3 run.

No. 18 Duke 78, Florida State 56: The Seminoles have had the Blue Devils’ number more often than not recently, but Duke didn’t have any trouble dispatching FSU thanks to 18 points from Rodney Hood and a strong 45-to-21 rebounding advantage. Florida State causes matchup problems against several teams, forcing others to play physical, ugly basketball. But Duke was aided by 34 made free throws and 26 offensive boards (including a combined 16 from Jabari Parker and Marshall Plumlee). All of a sudden, the Blue Devils have won four straight ACC games and enter a two-game road stretch against Pitt and Syracuse with a lot of confidence. This win gave Coach K his 900th as coach of Duke.

No. 10 Iowa 76, Northwestern 50: Every possible piece of trap game evidence was in play against the Hawkeyes when they played Northwestern on Saturday. Iowa was coming off a loss three days prior to Michigan. Northwestern won back-to-back games, including a 63-60 double-overtime victory over Purdue. The Hawkeyes went into Evanston and could’ve been looking past the Wildcats at the Michigan State game early next week. Instead, Iowa blew past Northwestern in the second half behind 14 points each from Roy Devyn Marble and Gabriel Olaseni to move to 16-4 (5-2 Big Ten) on the year. Fran McCaffery has the Hawkeyes playing fast and loose, and they’re a tough draw for anyone right now.

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