Hass: Composed Syracuse core continues to close games at elite level

first_img Published on January 26, 2014 at 11:55 pm CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Syracuse is the ultimate tease.The other team always thinks it’s getting some, but never ends up scoring late in the game.The Orange lets an inferior team hang around, then pulls away in the waning minutes. It’s happened all season. Every time the possibility of an upset emerges, it quickly fades.That’s because this Syracuse (19-0, 6-0 Atlantic Coast) team is built to thrive in the clutch. Tyler Ennis, C.J. Fair and company turn on their mojo when it matters most. They’re wired to win. And playing in these close games will help Syracuse tremendously in the big dance.“This team has made plays at the end of games,” said SU head coach Jim Boeheim. “I don’t care what our record is. We’ve had seven games just like this one that could have easily gone the other way.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“All seven games, somebody’s made a play.”SU’s latest victim was Miami (10-9, 2-5) on Saturday afternoon at the BankUnited Center. The Hurricanes catapulted back into contention, but Syracuse extinguished their comeback attempt without much difficulty.As he sat at the podium, Boeheim rattled off the games Syracuse could have easily lost this year: St. Francis, Boston College, Pittsburgh and Miami — twice. There were two more he couldn’t recall.The fact that the usually razor-sharp Boeheim didn’t immediately remember all of SU’s close games shows just how many tight games Syracuse has been in, and won.Competitive games early in the season prepare teams for March. And as we’ve watched the Orange come away with a win time and again, we’ve learned that SU is equipped to put teams away.Syracuse never panics or shows much fire. While the other team does everything it possibly can to climb back into the game, it does so with emotion. When Davon Reed scored a bucket, he grinned and shook both arms with vigor, bellowing before Tonye Jekiri helped him up.But when Ennis hit a floater down the other end to give SU the lead for good, he just jogged down the court like nothing important had happened. Just another day at the office. One more play for NBA scouts to salivate over and for Ennis — and the rest of the Orange — to downplay.The fact that no one on Syracuse is hotheaded or full of too much emotion might ultimately prove golden. Grant’s probably the most vivacious of the core seven players, but he’s all business on the court.Fair is soft spoken. Ennis is imperturbable. Cooney shows emotion sometimes, but overall he just goes about his way unaffected.It’s almost like Syracuse is just playing mind games with the other team. Oh, Boston College, you think you can hang? Nope. Time for a run. Pittsburgh, same to you. And Miami, same deal coming your way. You know the drill by now.Just like most savvy coaches, though, Boeheim would like to see fewer close games. Winning close games is great, but they also expose flaws.“That’s a great attribute to have,” Boeheim said, “but it also reminds you that you’re perilously close to having three or four losses.”He reminded the media just how stacked the ACC is. Though the conference isn’t what it was chalked up to be back in the preseason, it still features six or seven probable tournament teams, and three or four others vying for a spot in the dance.Wake Forest, for example, Syracuse’s next opponent, is 14-6 and just knocked off Notre Dame. There’s no easy out, which makes the ability to win close games that much more imperative.Winning close games with regularity is sometimes more indicative of a team’s success long term, though. Not every game’s going to be a cakewalk, like SU’s 22-point win over Colgate in November.Cakewalks don’t come frequently in college basketball, and there aren’t any more on Syracuse’s schedule. Every game will continue to show fans why the Orange is a trendy and logical pick to return to the Final Four.When the game is on the line, no team in the country is better at closing the deal.And why is that?“Well, we have good players,” Boeheim said. “It can’t be coaching. It’s got to be players.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

Top-ranked beach volleyball opens season with two victories

first_imgOn a windy Saturday morning in Malibu, Calif., the nation got a glimpse of what the new-look beach volleyball team has in store for the 2017 campaign. The No. 1 Trojans (2-0) edged No. 4 UCLA 3-2 and beat No. 3 Pepperdine 4-1 to pick up a pair of big dual victories at the annual Pepperdine Kick-Off on the sands of Zuma Beach. Four new Trojan pairs made their debuts for head coach Anna Collier and each notched at least one win, showing promise to begin the season.“I thought my pairs were quite solid this first weekend,” Collier said. “They had really good chemistry out on the court, and whenever they got in a little bit of trouble, which almost everybody did, they came together and worked through situations to improve on whatever they needed to improve on.”To start USC’s dual against UCLA, all five courts were engaged in hotly contested first sets, but the Trojans got on the board with wins at courts one and three. Senior All-Americans Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes took down UCLA twins Megan and Nicole McNamara(21-19, 21-12) at the top court, while the new pairing of senior Nicolette Martin and junior Terese Cannon posted a 21-16, 21-18 win over Savvy Simo and Torrey Van Winden at court three. The Bruins were able to snag a win at court four, as Izzy Carey and Elise Zappia defeated USC’s youngest pair of sophomore Abril Bustamante and freshman Joy Dennis, 21-19,21-15. The final two courts went the distance, and a victory by juniors Jenna Belton and Jo Kremer at court five over Chanti Holroyd and Lily Justine (21-18, 17-21, 15-11) sealed USC’s first dual win of the season.Immediately after their battle with the Bruins, the Trojans turned around and faced off against Pepperdine. The Waves’ home court advantage did not mean much, though, as USC scored 3 points in straight sets to secure the dual win. Seniors Sophie Bukovec and Allie Wheeler, another one of Collier’s new pairs, got their first win of the season over Brittany Howard and Corinne Quiggle(21-15, 21-18) at court two, while Claes and Hughes easily downed Delaney Knudsen and Madalyn Roh(21-12, 21-13) to give USC its second point. That victory for Claes and Hughes ran their winning streak to 75 in a row.The four-pair of Bustamante and Dennis bounced back from their early morning loss to notch their first win — a 21-13, 25-23 decision over Deahna Kraft and Anika Wilson — and clinch the dual for the Trojans. Courts three and five played to completion, as the Waves snagged their only point of the day behind Skylar Caputo and Heidi Dyer’s 22-20, 21-14 win over Cannon and Martin. Belton and Kremer once again went the distance on court five and triumphed for the second time with a 20-22, 21-16, 15-11 win over Gigi Hernandez and Katty Workman.With the victory, USC improved its school-record winning streak to 32 matches in a row. Before Saturday, Pepperdine was the only program to hold a winning record against USC, but the Trojan win evened up theall-time series record to 8-8. USC has now won four in a row against the Waves, while also remaining undefeated against UCLA at 6-0 all-time. Knowing that this weekend would serve as a good barometer of where her team stands to begin the season, Collier was pleased with how things turned out.“We were challenged exactly the way I wanted to be challenged,” Collier said. “Pepperdine and UCLA were able to show some of our weaknesses that we haven’t been able to find or see in our practices, and now we know what we need to work on in order to improve.”Hughes was also pleased with her team’s display of confidence and poise against top-ranked competition.“We came out with that No. 1 ranking, and that’s not an easy one to have because that target on our back gets bigger and bigger,” she said. “But we came out and proved ourselves today. We played two of the toughest teams in the nation, and I’m happy we came out with those wins.”The Trojans return to action on Saturday for the East Meets West Invitational in Manhattan Beach, Calif. USC will face off against Florida International at 10:30 a.m. in its first match of the day before taking on LSU at 12:30 p.m.last_img read more