SYRACUSE | I didn’t say it. Jim did.

After describing the series of events at the end of the past two wins, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said, “Without those things happening we are 0-2 and everyone is saying, ‘What happened to Syracuse?’ That is what I am saying. We should have lost both of these games.”

“There is almost no way on Earth that Louisville should have lost that game on Saturday,” he continued. “And there was less of a chance for Cincinnati to lose this game than Saturday. They had this. The game was over.”

Now that is something to think about, but don’t let it hurt your head. After all, most people probably left the Carrier Dome with a headache on Monday.

It might have been from the 24,000+ that generated some real noise, but I think it was from the hangover that the Orange, especially the offense, was suffering. It looks like SU can win without James Southerland, but only hair-grayingly so. And it is going to get them. They have to get better and they are already a top-five team.

Despite holding Cincinnati without a point for a 9:57 stretch in the first half, SU was up just 15-13 after the Bearcats made a three-pointer and got a free throw for a four-point play. The Orange offense is hurting.

SU was beaten on the boards (38-28 overall and 16-7 on the offensive glass), behind the arc against a zone defense (Cincy had 10 3's, the Orange six), and in total points until a 9-1 desperation run late. Good thing Bearcat Cashmere Wright had a poor game (2-for-13 shooting), SU held onto the ball (six turnovers), and got a tip-in from C.J. Fair…wait a second…I didn’t say it. Jim did.

“Somebody tipped it in. C.J. is claiming that he tipped it in,” Boeheim wryly noted. “He might have been the closest guy to the tip, but I don’t think he got any part of it.”

For as fun - as riveting - as the first half was on Saturday in bluegrass country, the opening 20 minutes on Monday was brutal and boring for the Orange. The offense for the No. 3/4 team in the land is being held together with scotch tape and Popsicle sticks right now (9-for-24 in the first half, seven total free throws forced, two total points from three centers, Trevor Cooney has yet to find a consistent shot and Southerland’s return is still unknown). Well, it is being held together by athletic tape. That is what is keeping Michael Carter-Williams’ left wrist operational after he injured it after his big dunk at the end of the Louisville win.

So good win, good effort, but tread lightly Orange fans. SU needs to get better. That time I did say it, but Jim said it in his post-game press conference, a lot. Just click over to our website to double-check.

“There are 8-10 teams where we could be anywhere,” Boeheim said in a more long-hand version. “Then there are 10 other teams that would beat any of those teams. They are not much behind (those first) teams. There are 10 and 10. Ten really good and 10 just a little bit behind them. That is who you are going to face in the NCAA tournament.”

The Orange now has a 35-game win streak in the Carrier Dome. They almost lost it, because the offen…hang on…wait a second…Jim came back to the podium with an “oh, by the way.”

“Saturday and then right after, this. This is ridiculous. It is stupid,” Boeheim said of the SU schedule. “Cincinnati just played four games in six or eight days and now they are off nine days. We played four games in the league in ten days. Now we are off for another week. It is ridiculous. It is not the right way to schedule. It shouldn’t be like that.”

Jim said it. I didn’t.

Sports writer Ben Meyers can be reached at 282-2256 or at ben.meyers@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at CitizenMeyers.

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