Syracuse spanks Memphis in final nonconference game of season

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim doesn't throw his sports coat nearly as much as he used to. Maybe he should resurrect the habit after a 74-57 victory over Memphis on Wednesday night.

Wes Johnson's layup gave the seventh-ranked Orange a 42-39 lead just over six minutes into the second half of a seesaw game. When fifth-year senior Andy Rautins threw the ball away on Syracuse's next possession, Boeheim jettisoned his jacket and turned away toward the bench as Elliot Williams of the Tigers sailed down court all alone.

Boeheim should have watched.

Ready to cut the lead back to one and give his team a big boost with a resounding dunk like the one he began the game with, Williams hit the back of the rim and watched helplessly as the ball sailed high above the backboard and then harmlessly to the court.

"That was freakish. How many times does that happen?" Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. "That was a big turning point. We get that and they're up only one. It was a freak thing. It was a one-on-none dunk."

"I guess I was trying to throw it down too hard," said a dejected Williams, who had only one field goal in second half. "I should have dunked it lightly. It happens. I've just got to move on."

Syracuse responded by scoring nine of the next 10 points to take an 11-point lead. A scoop in the lane by Johnson and a basket from the left corner by Rautins gave the Orange a 51-40 lead with 11:07 left and the Tigers never got closer than eight again.

"Once we saw Coach react like that, it gave us a little spark," Rautins said. "You really don't want to see him get to that point."

Johnson led Syracuse with 19 points; Kris Joseph added 15 in the second half; Rautins had 11 points, seven assists and five turnovers; and Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku each had 10 points.

Roburt Sallie led Memphis with 17 points but fouled out in the closing minutes, Wesley Witherspoon had 12 and Williams finished with a season-low 10, about half his season average. Doneal Mack finished with five points on 2-of-12 shooting.

It was the final nonconference game of the season for Syracuse (14-1), which was coming off an 82-72 home loss to Pittsburgh. The first-ever game in the Carrier Dome for Memphis (10-4) was one the Tigers would like to forget.

After making seven 3s in the first half -- Sallie was 4-for-4 from long range -- patiently working the ball around and using the shot clock to slow the game, Memphis was 2-of-13 from beyond the arc in the second half as Sallie hit only 1-of-3 attempts.

"We got out on Sallie, got a hand up on him," Johnson said. "We just have to slow down and be patient."

Tied 32-all at halftime, Rautins and Brandon Triche both hit 3s and Johnson had a one-handed dunk after Jackson corralled the second of two missed free throws by Onuaku to give Syracuse a 40-35 lead with 16:38 left.

A reverse layup by Williams and a follow by Witherspoon brought Memphis within a point, but the Tigers never regained the lead.

"We had some chances," Pastner said. "But they came up with some loose balls at key times."

Despite the victory, Boeheim was unhappy with the sloppy play. Syracuse had 17 turnovers, many on soft passes, only 13 fast-break points and just six steals, half its season average. The Orange missed at least four layups.

"I can't explain the turnovers, I really can't," Boeheim said. "We haven't made these kinds of turnovers all year. It wasn't pressure. It looked like we were throwing it to the other team. It's hard to explain how bad we were tonight and won the game. We're not playing like a good basketball team."