Andy Rautins and Eric Devendorf returned to form, Syracuse’s zone baffled and frustrated Pac-10 Player of the Year James Harden, and the Orange moved on to the Sweet 16 with a 78-67 win over the Sun Devils.
The tandem are Syracuse’s two primary outside threats, but both failed to find the range in Syracuse’s opening round game against Stephen F. Austin, going a combined 3-for-17 from the field.
But that was not the case on Sunday, as the two guards accounted for 38 points on 11-of-24 shooting.
“Regardless as a shooter you have to keep shooting no matter what,” Rautins said. “Eric and I, we didn’t shoot the ball well last game and we came out and were stroking it well today. That’s what good shooters do, they bounce back and they stay confident.”
The two came out firing early, as Syracuse (28-9) raced out to a 41-32 lead at halftime and built a 15 point second-half lead. It seemed the Orange would put the game out of reach as Sun Devil center Jeff Pendergraph fouled out.
But Arizona State (25-10) responded with a 10-2 run, capped by a Ty Abbott 3-pointer to pull within 61-57 with 6:38 left.
That’s when Rautins and Devendorf took over.
On the ensuing possession, Jonny Flynn (11 points, 7 assists) found an open Rautins who drained a 3-point shot.
Devendorf would follow with two more 3-pointers as Syracuse went up 70-59. After Devendorf’s second shot, which essentially put the game out of reach, Devendorf posed and then turned to the Syracuse crowd.
“Jonny made a great penetration and kicked it to Andy and then he made a couple to get Eric the ball,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “They knocked down big shots. That was the difference.”
Perhaps more impressive was that Syracuse was able to shut down Harden.
The sophomore came into the game averaging 20.4 points, but looked lost amidst the Syracuse 2-3 zone. Harden struggled in Arizona State’s first round win over Temple as well, shooting just 1-for-8. His struggles would continue against Syracuse as Harden went scoreless for the first half on 0-for-4 shooting, and did not attempt a field goal in his first nine minutes.
Harden finished with 10 points on 2-for-10 from the field.
“Every time you play against a guy with that much potential and that much ability on the basketball court, you’re wired up to stop him,” Flynn said. “We just did a good job of making it a hard game for him and letting nothing come easy for him.”
Had it not been for Rihards Kuksiks and Ty Abbott, Syracuse would’ve pulled away much earlier. The two finished with 20 points apiece.
“We knew Kuksiks would shoot it and we didn’t do a good job with him,” Boeheim said. “Abbott had a big game for them. He shot the heck out of the ball.”
The game marked Boeheim’s 799th win. His first attempt at 800 will come against Oklahoma (29-5) on Friday.
“It doesn’t mean a lot,” Boeheim said of the milestone. “If [Blake Griffin] hadn’t gotten hurt, they’d be the No. 1 seed. That’s enough to worry about.”
This article originally appeared on Syracusefan.com.