MBB : Orange inside game could receive boost with potential of Melo’s return Saturday

first_imgWith Fab Melo and Rakeem Christmas relegated to the Syracuse bench, the reality hit C.J. Fair.If Baye Keita, SU’s lone remaining big man with experience at the center position, picked up one more foul over the final 4:58 against West Virginia, he too would be forced to the sideline with five fouls.And that would push the 6-foot-8, 203-pound Fair to the center spot to battle with the Mountaineers’ 260-pound big men Kevin Jones and Deniz Kilicli.‘I thought about it for a second,’ Fair said, ‘and I’m like, ‘How am I going to play that big guy?’ But luckily Baye, he played his ground well.’Keita managed to avoid that fifth foul and finished SU’s 63-61 win over the Mountaineers on Saturday. Christmas and Keita have taken on much bigger roles on the offensive end and in the heart of No. 3 Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense during Melo’s absence. But in the three games without Melo, at least one of those big men has struggled against the rugged Big East competition.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textMelo will return to the SU lineup for the team’s matchup against St. John’s on Saturday after missing three consecutive games for academic reasons, according to The Post-Standard. Pete Moore, SU director of athletic communications, said in an email that he could not confirm whether Melo would travel with the Orange (22-1, 9-1 Big East) this weekend or his availability for the matchup with the Red Storm (9-12, 3-6) Saturday at noon at Madison Square Garden. Depending on Melo’s availability, the Orange may once again have to make some small tweaks to its game plan.‘We just have to adjust,’ junior forward James Southerland said of playing without Melo. ‘That’s every game, though. You adjust to what’s going on, and you make the best of it.’Melo was a force inside for SU throughout the year and seemed to get better once conference play began. He leads the Orange in blocks and rebounds per game, and his 7-foot, 244-pound frame clogged up the middle of the 2-3 zone.The sophomore is two inches taller than Keita and three inches taller than Christmas, but the major difference comes in his bulk. Melo has roughly 30 pounds on Keita and 20 on Christmas.And though Fair was concerned with how he would handle West Virginia’s big men Saturday, head coach Jim Boeheim said Christmas and Keita aren’t quite prepared for that type of competition, either.‘Those guys, they’re not really ready physically to play in this league,’ Boeheim said. ‘They’re going to have to foul sometimes. We want to foul guys like Kilicli if he’s not making shots, missing free throws. We tried to foul (Cincinnati’s) Yancy Gates the other night. Just use some fouls in that situation.’Christmas and Keita have picked up nine fouls each in this three-game stretch, but the biggest problem has been getting solid performances out of both big men in the same game.Against Notre Dame, neither could stop Fighting Irish forward Jack Cooley in SU’s only loss this year. At Cincinnati, freshman Christmas had his best game of the year, while Keita didn’t score and grabbed just one rebound. And against West Virginia, Boeheim was happy with Keita, but Christmas lacked energy.‘I thought Rakeem looked lost in space today,’ Boeheim said after the win over the Mountaineers. ‘He looked like a freshman.‘I just wondered if he was awake. I wasn’t sure. I just tried to make sure he was awake.’Melo’s return Saturday would be a huge boost for the Orange. But even if he doesn’t play, his presence alone can help SU’s other two big men.He works through things with them in practices but also gave them feedback during the game Saturday. He did not travel with the team on the road trip to Notre Dame and Cincinnati.And whether he plays or is just there on the bench against the Red Storm, Keita knows it will be a major benefit for himself and Christmas.‘Having him on the bench, talking to him all the time will help me,’ Keita said. ‘We do the same thing during games. I’ll be sitting on the bench. Rakeem, too. We keep talking all the time.’zjbrown@syr.edu Comments Published on February 1, 2012 at 12:00 pmcenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

After tight battle in Big City Classic, Syracuse to meet Notre Dame again in upcoming Big East tournament

first_img Published on April 28, 2013 at 11:47 am Contact David: dbwilson@syr.edu | @DBWilson2 EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For 45 minutes, nothing separated the nation’s No. 1 and No. 7 teams. Notre Dame’s staunch defense and superb goaltending illustrated why it was regarded as the team to beat heading into the final weeks of the season. Syracuse’s hustle and equally firm defense demonstrated why it could play with anyone.For the final 15 minutes of the Konica Minolta Big City Classic at MetLife Stadium, the Orange asserted itself as the better of the two — even if by a slim margin. And in less than a week they’ll go at it again.The Fighting Irish will have a chance to avenge its 10-4 loss to SU in East Rutherford, N.J., in just days, when the two meet in the first round of the Big East tournament in Villanova, Pa., on Thursday. The winner will advance to next Saturday’s Big East championship against the winner of the earlier semifinal game between the Wildcats and Georgetown.“Mentally we’ve got to get that edge back going into this next game because it’s really difficult to play a team you just beat, play them a few days later,” Syracuse head coach John Desko said. “It’s mental challenge for us as coaches and players.”For the first 15 minutes, the Orange and UND defenses traded blows, missed opportunities and made spectacular saves. SU midfielder Scott Loy freed himself up on the right side of the field, no defender within five yards. When he cranked up to shoot though, Notre Dame goaltender John Kemp slid over and deflected Loy’s shot with ease.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textFor 10 minutes, this is how things went. The game was even, as expected. Both Syracuse and the Irish found chances, but Kemp and SU goaltender Dominic Lamolinara positioned themselves in the way when they needed too. But for much of the first quarter, the stalwart defenses kept the opposition away from the cage.UND midfielder Tyler Kimball scrambled around atop the Irish offensive zone, but David Hamlin came in full pursuit. The Syracuse midfielder harassed Kimball, causing a turnover and keeping the teams level through one quarter.“When you come off a win, the tendency is to not evaluate the other team because whatever you did last time worked,” Desko. “I think we can’t do that as coaches. We have to have a Plan B ready.”Even as his defense collapsed in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan said he wouldn’t change anything up in practice this week. The Fighting Irish have played well enough all season to merit the No. 1 ranking. Saturday’s collapse was just “a manifestation of four quarters of bad lacrosse.”Said Corrigan: “We’ll come back on Friday – or Thursday – and try it again.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

Venus Aims at Final Berth Record at 36 Years

first_img“Why shouldn’t I (think I can win the tournament)? I try to believe,” Williams said.“Should I look across the net and believe the person across the net deserves it more? This mentality is not how champions are made. I’d like to be a champion, in particular this year.“The mentality I walk on court with is: I deserve this.”Williams, ranked 17th in the world, will take on fellow American CoCo Vandeweghe for a place in Saturday night’s final in what she said is “a great win for the US”.She beat Russian 24th seed Anastasia Pavyluchenkova in straight sets to make it through.“I’m sure she’s going to want to be in her first final,” the seven-time grand slam winner said.“I’m going to want to be in only my second final here. So it’s going to be a well-contested match.”Vandeweghe, 25, has made consecutive semi-final appearances at the last two US Opens, with her previous best Australian Open showing being a quarter-final berth last year.While she said making it as far as today is “amazing”, she is anything but satisfied.“There’s more things to do out on a tennis court that I’m hoping to achieve.”The pair have only met once, but Vandeweghe echoed Williams’ excitement at sharing the experience with a compatriot.“To play an unbelievable player, future Hall of Famer, Venus, to be on the court with her, I’ve only experienced it one time before,” she said.“To have two Americans against each other in the semi-final I think is pretty cool.”Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegram Venus Williams is determined to maintain a champion mindset as she prepares for today’s all-American semi-final at Melbourne Park.The 36-year-old will become the oldest woman to play in an Australian Open semi-final, and the oldest semi-finalist at any grand slam in 23 years.And she won’t be letting anyone tell her she doesn’t deserve to be there.Venus Williams is eyeing her first Australian Open final since she played her sister in 2003. Picture: Wayne Ludbeylast_img read more