Sunday, March 23, 2003
Cowboys will test Orangemen
By JEFF DiVERONICA
Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle
BOSTON - As the comparisons rolled Saturday afternoon, likening Oklahoma State's defense to Pittsburgh's and its swift transition game to Connecticut's, the Syracuse Orangemen could only answer the questions politely.
They know they had trouble with Pittsburgh's man-to-man. They understand UConn turned a basketball court into a race track in two losses to the Huskies.
But these young Orangemen also know what they are capable of, so they fear no one and no situation. They find ways to win.
Fall down early? No problem. They have too many offensive options for it to stay that way for long.
Star forward Carmelo Anthony struggling? Someone else will keep the Orange afloat until Anthony takes over.
Fall behind in the second half? It's almost become part of the game plan. Syracuse has rallied 13 times from second-half holes to win.
"We've lived all year with these guys," said coach Jim Boeheim, whose third-seeded team plays No. 6 Oklahoma State Sunday at the Fleet Center with a trip to the Sweet 16 next week at stake. "You learn to live with (their mistakes) because these guys make more good plays than bad plays.
"Probably 10 or 15 years ago, I'd be dead by now or there'd be a couple of players dead, for sure. But you just kind of learn to roll with the punches. You just try to suffer through the bad plays and wait for the good ones."
In order to advance out of the East Regional's second round, SU must beat a team that hails from the Big 12 - considered the country's best conference. The Cowboys (10-6) finished fourth behind two teams that are NCAA No. 1 seeds (Texas and Oklahoma) and Big 12 regular-season champion Kansas, a No. 2 seed. They were just ahead of Missouri, a No. 6 seed.
The matchup pits two veteran coaches - Boeheim, 58, and Eddie Sutton, 67 - with 1,372 wins between them and teams with totally different defensive styles. Oklahoma State relies on in-your-face man-to-man, while SU will try to cover the court - and four streaky Cowboys shooters who make better than 35 percent from 3-point range - with its 2-3 zone.
"(Sutton's) defense is as good as anybody's. I like their team," Boeheim said. "They've got good inside and good perimeter players. They can play with anybody in the country."
Oklahoma State started 17-1 but has gone 5-8 since. It has been inconsistent on offense despite having four double-figure scorers: speedy point man Victor Williams (averaging 15.2 points per game), guards Tony Allen (14.5) and Melvin Sanders (13.4) and forward Ivan McFarlin (10.5).
Williams is coming off a career-high 29 points on 10-for-17 shooting in Friday's first-round win, 77-63, over No. 11 Pennsylvania. Allen added 13 of his 15 points in the second half, as the Cowboys forced 19 turnovers. They are a little smaller than SU but are much more athletic than No. 13 Manhattan, which SU didn't have an easy time dismissing, 76-65, in the first round.
The Orangemen can't turn the ball over as much as they did against Manhattan (18 times) or Williams and Co. will turn giveaways into fast-break layups.
"They like to push the ball up the court, that's where they get most of their points," Anthony said. "They get a lot of steals, so we can't convert a lot of turnovers."
Sanders is expected to guard Anthony. He figures facing one of the country's top players is an opportunity. But he'll give away three inches to the 6-8 Anthony, who would be smart to forget about his jump shot in the first half and assert himself down low.
"I'm sure it's going to be a tough task," Sanders said. "I've played a lot of good players in the Big 12 - T.J. Ford (Texas), Kirk Hinrich (Kansas), Hollis Price (Oklahoma)."
Said Anthony: "I'm ready to take on any challenge."
The Orangemen don't want their road to the Final Four to end, at least not short of their back yard next weekend in Albany.
"It's been a great experience, especially winning a game and moving on," freshman guard Gerry McNamara said. "It's a good feeling, but I don't want to take it in yet. I want to take it in when it's all said and done. As far as I'm concerned, we're not done yet."
Full coverage at Cincinnati.com
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