for this game

Big guard play helps Syracuse get back on track

Feb 5, 2009 - 5:58 AM SYRACUSE, New York (Ticker) -- Syracuse got some of its swagger back on Wednesday.

Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf scored 22 points apiece as No. 20 Syracuse returned to winning ways with a 74-61 victory over West Virginia in a Big East Conference.

Paul Harris added 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Orange (18-5, 6-4 Big East), who snapped a three-game losing streak.

"This team has a lot of heart," Devendorf said. "We have to let those three games slide. It's the Big East, you see everybody losing. You have Georgetown losing to Cincinnati, Notre Dame. It's going to be like that sometimes.

"We just have to keep our heads up and get through it and keep playing. This team is capable of doing big things, and we have the most talent in the country right now. If we can put that together on the court for 40 minutes, anything is possible."

Syracuse, which was coming off a 100-94 setback at Providence last Wednesday, put the game away with a 20-9 run that spanned halftime, taking a 44-31 cushion with 18:15 remaining.

West Virginia (15-7, 4-5) got no closer than nine points after the surge.

Flynn had nine points during the run and Devendorf added seven as the guards followed up on their two-man attack from the loss to Providence in which they combined for 62 points.

Flynn shot 7-of-13 from the field with two 3-pointers, handed out five assists and collected three steals.

The junior Devendorf made 9-of-18 shots in scoring at least 20 points for the third straight game.

"It definitely was a must-win game in a sense, just for our team - not for the season but just for team, just so we could get back on the right track," Flynn said. "It really takes a toll on you mentally when you're losing games. You know, I think what the team did was refocus."

The specific area where the Orange refocused was on the defensive end, as they held a team under 65 points for the first time in eight games.

"The difference in the game is our defense - we found their shooters," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "We were just much better than we've been all year defensively, finding shooters and still rebounding the basketball. We did a tremendous job on them. They're a very good rebounding team. Basically, we found (Da'Sean) Butler and (Alex) Ruoff and we did not let those two guys get going, and that was really the difference, I thought, in the ball game."

The Mountaineers ended up 36 percent (24-of-67) from the field, including 7-of-27 on 3-pointers. The Orange also finished with a 46-35 advantage in rebounding.

"It's hard to come in here and shoot 35 percent and win," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. "I think the disappointing thing for me was we didn't get the loose balls. We weren't the aggressor the way we need to be. We can't be like them because they are better than we are."

While they will go into the stretch of back-to-back road games at No. 16 Villanova and top-ranked Connecticut on a high note after this win, the Orange still have yet to see injured players Arinze Onuaku and Andy Rautins return to form.

Syracuse's starting center, Onuaku, is clearly still bothered by tendinitis in his left knee, playing sparingly after picking up his second foul with 6:20 left in the first half. He finished with four points and six rebounds.

Rautins returned from an ankle injury but was not in rhythm after missing the previous game, going 0-for-4 on 3-pointers and failing to score in 21 minutes.

Butler scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half for the Mountaineers, who lost for the fourth time in their last five meetings with ranked opponents.

Ruoff had 10 points and freshman Devin Ebanks added nine and 11 boards for West Virginia.