No. 3 Syracuse won again at home, and nobody asked about that big distraction.
Indeed, it seemed like just another night for Orange coach Jim Boeheim.
Dion Waiters had 15 points and Kris Joseph had 11 and eight rebounds as the unbeaten Orange continued to win amid a federal investigation, this time outlasting Marshall 62-56 at the Carrier Dome on Tuesday night behind a solid defensive effort.
”It just seemed like another game, another game at the dome, another home game, and we won,” Joseph said. ”We just want to keep winning, protect our home court.”
It was the third game for Syracuse (9-0) since former associate head coach Bernie Fine was fired after allegations by three men that he sexually molested them as minors. Two of the three men were former Orange ballboys. Fine has maintained his innocence and no charges have been filed.
Boeheim figured the Thundering Herd (5-2), which beat Cincinnati of the Big East in overtime on the road, would offer a tough challenge for the Orange.
He was right.
But Scoop Jardine helped down the stretch, finishing with 10 points, five rebounds and four assists as the Orange became the first Big East team to get to nine wins.
It’s been nearly three weeks since the allegations against Fine surfaced, but the intensity of the media spotlight has dimmed in recent days.
”There wasn’t a lot of media there, and there’s not a lot of media outside (the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center where the team practices),” Jardine said. ”We can be focused on basketball . . . not that we (weren’t).”
Jardine also had three of Syracuse’s 12 steals as the Orange scored 20 points off Marshall turnovers and hung on despite an off night shooting and a second-half struggle on the boards.
”Turnovers really hurt us tonight,” said Damier Pitts, who had 10 points for the Herd. ”We had five or six in a row in the first half. That led to layups, and that hurt us.”
The teams went into halftime with identical rebounding statistics — 18 total and five offensive — and the Herd finished with a 46-33 edge. Marshall outrebounded Syracuse 15-3 on the offensive end after halftime.
”We didn’t take care of the ball early,” said Marshall forward Dennis Tinnon, who had 17 points and 15 rebounds.
The Herd’s 73-69 win over the Bearcats was its first over a BCS conference team since a 69-66 triumph over Texas A&M in December 1989, and may just spark the program to a solid season in a mediocre Conference USA.
But against the No. 3 team in the nation, the Herd simply ran out of gas. Marshall, in fact, couldn’t recover from 12 turnovers in the opening half and finished with 19, never getting any rhythm against the famous Syracuse zone. Marshall shot 20.8 percent (5 of 24) from beyond the arc, but all five came in the final 5 minutes to help make the game close.
”Our defense was really good the entire game,” Boeheim said. ”They didn’t make anything, which helps.”
Syracuse used a 22-6 spurt in the first half to take charge and held on at the end when Tinnon converted a three-point play and Shaquille Johnson hit a pair of 3s — all in the final 65 seconds.
”We didn’t play smart or pretty at times, but we played with great heart on the road,” Marshall coach Tom Herrion said. ”We don’t believe in moral victories. We’re past that.
”But we have a lot of good things to build on.”
Waiters started the early surge with a steal and dunk to break a 6-all tie, Joseph followed with a 3 from the left wing off a nice feed from C. J. Fair, and Jardine’s pullup jumper from the right side made it 18-10.
Brandon Triche then scored twice on layups off Marshall turnovers, and grabbed another mishandled ball by Johnson and fed Waiters for a one-handed slam and a 26-12 lead with 5: 40 to go in the half.
The Herd rallied briefly with six straight points. Robert Goff’s basket closed the gap to 28-18 before James Southerland’s 3 from the right wing gave the Orange a 31-18 halftime lead. Marshall never inched closer than nine until the final minute.
Boeheim was given rousing ovations when he made his way onto the court that bears his name the previous two games. On this night, though, nobody seemed to notice as he walked to greet Herrion.
”We’re not distracted at all,” Waiters said. ”Just continue to play basketball at the end of the day.”
After initially vilifying the two former ballboys when they went public with their claims, a drawn-looking Boeheim apologized in a halting voice after Friday night’s 72-68 win over Florida.
Boeheim said he’d campaign against child abuse, even though he knows his motives will be questioned.
”We believed in helping kids long before this. I’m sure people are always going to question why you do something, but we’re going to do this and continue to do it,” said Boeheim, who last week toured a local center with his wife, Juli, that’s dedicated to ending child abuse.
”We don’t do it for what people might say.”
A few people had called on Boeheim to resign or be fired when the accusations first surfaced, and he was criticized as callous for saying the accusations by former ballboys Bobby Davis and Mike Lang were lies motivated by money.
In a letter published Monday in The Post-Standard of Syracuse, Yeshiva University law professor Marci A. Hamilton became the latest to call for Syracuse University to terminate Boeheim’s contract.
The allegations have rattled the Syracuse community, especially so soon after the Penn State child sex abuse case in which former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is accused in a grand jury indictment of sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year period. But the aftermath of the Hall of Fame coach’s emotional press conference on Friday has had an effect here.
”It seems much better,” 51-year-old Mark Stevens said before the game. ”It’s calmed down for a bit, definitely.
”But you’re always wondering.”
Meanwhile, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday morning to address the investigation into Fine.