It was the largest crowd of the year at the Carrier Dome on Saturday, and all 28,740 exhaled at the same time at the closing buzzer when the Orange had just survive a big 63-61 win. West Virginia's Kevin Jones missed a 3 point shot at the buzzer allowing Syracuse to improve to 22-1 on the season.
"It was great," said Dion Waiters after contributing 8 points in the game, "These are the type of games you want to play and come to college for. That's what we look forward too. We needed a tough game like that to see where we were at mentally so it was great for us."
It was the third straight game without sophomore center Fab Melo, still out with a reported academic issue, and that may have contributed to the close game according to Head Coach Jim Boeheim.
"I think the rebounding was the problem," said Boeheim after the game, "Our defense is not as good without Fab. Hopefully we will find out this week. He is working through his issues."
"We do need to get more rebounds," admits Waiters, "It's our job to go down there and battle and get rebounds. We are all big guards so we have to go help the big guys with Fab being out."
The Orange were out-rebounded 39-20 by the Mountaineers, but Boeheim doesn't blame that solely on being thin inside without Melo. He said that everybody needs to get into the rebounding game, and furthermore everybody has to start hitting more shots, especially three point shots.
"We really haven't shot the ball well from the three since the league started," reflected Boeheim, "We are getting good looks; I don't think James can get better looks from the three. Scoop's were good, Brandon's, Dion's were wide open. You've got to make some of them because we are going to get beat on the boards a little bit; We've got to make some of those shots."
Brandon Triche led the Orange with 18 points, including a pair of free throws with just over a minute left that broke the tie. The Mountaineers missed four straight shots after that, including Kevin Jones' missed three point shot at the buzzer.
"The crowd was definitely behind us when we needed them," said Triche, "It's one of those games where we show heart. Fab wasn't there which doesn't make it easier for our other big men. We were hustling up and down the court getting loose balls and blocking shots."
The Orange play next at Madison Square Garden next Saturday when they take on St. John's.