Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Hogs on Orange alert, expect Boeheim’s best
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, center, talks with his players during a timeout against Princeton in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012. Syracuse won 73-53. (AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli)
FAYETTEVILLE When Mike Anderson was a junior point guard at Tulsa and scored 17 points to help the Golden Hurricane beat Syracuse 86-84 in overtime to win the 1981 NIT championship in New York’s Madison Square Garden, Jim Boeheim was coaching the Orange.
Fourteen years later, Anderson was an Arkansas assistant when the Razorbacks beat Syracuse — and Boeheim — 96-94 in overtime in the second round of the 1995 NCAA Tournament in Austin, Texas.
Boeheim, 68 and closing in on 900 career victories in his 37th season, will be on the opposing bench again when Anderson, now in his second season as Arkansas’ coach and 11th overall leading a program, goes against No. 6 Syracuse at 7:30 tonight in Walton Arena in the SEC/Big East Challenge.
This is the 50th year since Boeheim arrived on the Syracuse campus as a freshman guard in the fall of 1962. He became a Syracuse assistant in 1967 and head coach in 1976, leading the Orange to 28 NCAA Tournament appearances, nine Big East regularseason titles and 894 victories. He won the national championship in 2003 and was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2005.
“He’s a great coach,” Anderson said. “He’s seen a lot of players and seen a lot of things in college basketball. He’s had a chance to work with USA Basketball. He’s been part of Olympic teams. He has been at one place for a long period of time.
“That tells you a lot about him. He has tremendous loyalty to Syracuse University, and I think that is returned back to him as well.”
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Boeheim and Syracuse endured a tumultuous time last year, when longtime assistant coach Bernie Fine was fired amid allegations of sexual abuse involving two former ball boys and center Fab Melo was declared academically ineligible for the NCAA Tournament.
The Orange still finished 34-3, a school record for victories, and reached the Elite Eight before losing to Ohio State.
This season, with three new starters, Syracuse is off to a 4-0 start, including a 63-49 victory over No. 23 San Diego State in the opener played on the deck of the decommissioned USS Midway aircraft carrier in San Diego.
“When you talk about the ultimate challenge, that’s what we’re going to face here,” Anderson said. “They lost some great players ... and have had guys sitting there, and now it’s their time.”
Syracuse 6-6 sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams is averaging 9.3 assists per game to lead the nation. He has 37 assists and 11 turnovers.
“He is very smart, very clever. He has a high basketball IQ” Anderson said. “He’s got some great support to go with it. You don’t get assists by yourself.”
Syracuse 6-4 senior guard Brandon Triche and 6-8 senior forward James Southerland are averaging 15.3 points each, 6-8 junior forward C.J. Fair is averaging 11.0, and 6-6 sophomore forward Michael Williams is averaging 7.8.
“They’ve got the type of athletes that if you throw it up there near the rim, they’re going to go get it,” Anderson said.
Carter-Williams had 13 assists and 1 turnover in 28 minutes during the Orange’s 87-51 victory over Colgate last Sunday.
“Michael’s doing a great job of finding open guys,’’ Boeheim told the Syracuse (N.Y.) Post-Standard. “He’s really playing as well as any point guard we’ve had in a long time in terms of getting the ball to people and making plays for other people. Even when there’s not a play there, he’s making plays there for them.’’
The Razorbacks (3-2) are hoping to bounce back from losing to Arizona State 83-68 and Wisconsin 77-70 in Las Vegas last weekend.
“Arkansas is very difficult at home,’’ Boeheim said. “They’ve lost two road games, but they’re a different team at home. Any pressing team is always much more difficult to play on their home court.”
Triche said facing Arkansas’ defense will be a team effort.
“I’ll be handling the ball a lot more than I did [against Colgate] without the pressure,’’ Triche told the Post-Standard. “[Carter-Williams] was able to do that and not expend a lot of energy. Arkansas is going to come at you with two and sometimes three guys.
“I’m going to help him out. Our wings are capable dribblers as well.’’
Arkansas will be trying to solve the Orange’s 2-3 zone, which has become Boeheim’s trademark.
“’We’ve got to have some guys knock some shots down to make them extend their defense,” Anderson said.
The Razorbacks are shooting 27.8 percent from threepoint range (22 of 79), including 2 of 13 by sophomore guard BJ Young, who shot 41.3 percent last season. Junior guard Mardracus Wade has made 4 of 10 three-pointers, and freshman guard Anthlon Bell is 5 of 18.
Sports, Pages 21 on 11/30/2012