For a half Rutgers managed to keep it a game last night with No. 11 Syracuse. But when the second half started, the Scarlet Knights became another act in the Jonny Flynn Show as the Orange point guard made the RAC his personal stage in a 82-66 Syracuse victory.
Flynn made highlight play after highlight play, enough to fill his own Top-10 in the nightly recap. There was the behind the back, no-look touch pass in transition that set up a Paul Harris dunk. Or the spin-move at the top of the key that led to a finish at the basket and the foul. But the very best was a dunk over Mike Rosario that will most likely be seen on a poster at the nearest Syracuse fan shop near you. It all added up to Flynn finishing one assist and three rebounds short of a triple-double with 15 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
Of all his eye-pleasing plays, the dunk was what changed the dynamic of the game, causing a momentous momentum shift. At that point the Orange were up 52-48 and could not pull away from the Scarlet Knights despite holding Rutgers to just three field goals in the first seven minutes of the second half. The dunk started a 7-2 run that swung the game for Syracuse.
“Whenever somebody makes a play like that, whether it be me or another teammate, the crowd gets into it, we’ve got a lot of fans here, and your team automatically gets into it. So I’d say it was a game-changer,” said Flynn of his play.
It seemed like an emotional dagger to the heart of the Knights. They were down only one at halftime but had come out flat in the second half. Still they managed to keep the game close despite not hitting their first field goal till 4:08 into half, a jump shot by Earl Pettis. But after Flynn threw it down, the momentum swung for Syracuse.
Rutgers head coach Fred Hill was assessed a technical after the play for arguing that Flynn should have been hit with a charging foul. Eric Devendorf hit one of the two ensuing free throws and Syracuse was on their way. While the Knights could only shoot 28.6 percent for the half, the Orange made 12 straight shots at one point, finishing the half shooting better than 69 percent.
Rutgers’ defense in the second half was not an anomaly as the Orange shot 61 percent on the evening, and committed just eight turnovers. Their biggest problems on the defensive end came from their inability to stop Syracuse from scoring in the paint. Paul Harris’ and Arinze Onuaku’s success were emblematic of RU’s troubles inside.
The Orange scored 50 points in the paint and 18 of Harris’ game high 26 points came on dunks and lay-ups. Onuaka had similar success in the lane, scoring 12 of his 19 points there.
“Their three point shooting was outstanding and we were able to stop that, but they’re still a really tough match-up for us,” said Hill of his team’s defensive woes. “Trying to guard Paul Harris, who is a beast of a wing-forward with a post player in Gregory [Echenique] and another post player in JR Inman. They did a good job of getting the ball inside and they were able to score and that’s why they shot such a good percentage.”
While Flynn’s superlative play won the attention of most, Corey Chandler’s had an electric night of his own. He finished with nine points, seven rebounds and two blocks that gave Rutgers fans some bragging rights over Flynn. The first one came in the first half as he caught up to Flynn from behind and swatted away a lay-up attempt. The second came as Chandler once again caught up to the guard and tipped away a dunk,
Anthony Farmer was another bright spot for Rutgers, as he finished with a team high 17 points. Leading scorer Mike Rosario struggled once again, shooting 6-22 from the floor, and hitting only three of 15 from beyond the arc.
“I didn’t want to take a forced shot to put my team in a position where we would have to come back even more,” said Rosario of his second half play when he hit 1-11 shots. “They put us in a position where we had to rely on the other players on my team to make shots.”
As if having to deal with another top-15 team and one of the best players in the country wasn’t enough for Rutgers, the sellout crowd at the RAC was approximately half Syracuse fans. They let their presence be known throughout the game, capping it off with a “Let’s go Orange” chant to drown out the arena as the seconds trickled down in another Rutgers loss.