Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim entered Wednesday night’s game against Rutgers on the precipice of history, needing only one win to surpass legendary coach Bob Knight on the all-time wins list. By the time the first half drew to a close, it was clear that the Scarlet Knights would not be an obstacle on coach Boeheim’s quest for win number 903.
After the game, Boeheim was quick to deflect the importance of the milestone, “To me, the numbers are not the story. The story is the players that I’ve been able to coach. The coaches I’ve worked with. The coaches we’ve competed against all these years. So many great coaches, so many great games. It’s those games and those battles that I think about.”
The first twelve minutes of the game featured back and forth play between what looked to be evenly matched teams — at first glance. With eight minutes remaining in the first half, Rutgers took a 20-18 lead that made the fans at the Carrier Dome question whether or not this game would be the record breaker. This question was swiftly answered by the Orange, who proceeded to go on a ridiculous scoring frenzy. The Orange closed the half on a 21-0 run to take a 39-20 lead at halftime. It was never close again.
Syracuse was led by junior Brandon Triche, who finished with a team high 25 points while shooting 5-7 from downtown. Unlike Rutgers standout Eli Carter, Triche had a tremendously skilled supporting cast playing alongside him. There was a visible divide in the level of athleticism that the two teams were capable of. Even when Rutgers was able to get a hard fought basket underneath (which was rare), Syracuse would counter with a jaw-dropping alley-oop.
Rutgers head coach Mike Rice — who was returning for the first time since his very public suspension — was livid and animated all night long. The loss undoubtedly stung the Scarlet Knights, who were looking to make a big statement in their first Big East game of the season.
Sophomore Eli Carter dazzled spectators at the Dome Wednesday night, recording 19 points on 7-13 shooting and had been trading blows with Brandon Triche before the aforementioned offensive avalanche. His usual partner in crime, Myles Mack, was a no-show on the evening. Mack was 0-4 from the floor and didn’t record a single point.
The loss showcased some of Rutgers most exigent issues. While the Knights do have some nicely sized interior players (6’9” Wally Judge and 6’9” Kareem Jack), they are lost offensively. Outside of Carter — who is averaging a team high 16.9 points per game — Rutgers has no player they can turn to for instant offense. Syracuse’s hyper athletic big men like 6’8” James Southerland made the Scarlet Knights look slow and clumsy in the paint.
If this game is any indicator of how Rutgers will fair during Big East play, then it’s time to avert your eyes. Coach Rice and the Knights drastically need to make some changes and find a way to create offense. Unfortunately for Rutgers, it can be hard to create something from nothing. At least as of now, it appears the Knights do not have the right tools to compete in the Big East.