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January 7, 2007
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MILWAUKEE - Somewhere, Jim Boeheim figured, Al McGuire must be cringing.
After his team upset No. 15 Marquette 70-58 on Sunday night, the Syracuse coach fondly recalled a whirlwind tour of Milwaukee that McGuire took him on as a visiting assistant coach in the 1970s.
"I think he would have liked the defense tonight," Boeheim said. "I don't know if he would have liked anything else."
The Orange (12-4, 1-1 Big East) won their first game in four tries against ranked teams this season despite hitting only two field goals in the final 9 minutes of the game.
If it was possible, Marquette (13-4, 0-2) looked even sloppier.
Syracuse managed to keep pace with the Golden Eagles by going to the free-throw line and holding Marquette's offense in check. The Orange held Golden Eagles guard Dominic James to a season-low six points.
Marquette coach Tom Crean said he wanted to see his players get "a little hungrier," calling on them to put in extra time improving their shooting outside of the team's practices.
"We've got to have some individual soul-searching on how much more time we're going to spend outside of practice, things of that nature," Crean said.
The Golden Eagles were 3-for-14 from 3-point range and are 7-for-37 from 3-point range in their last two games. The common denominator: zone defenses by Syracuse and Providence.
But a zone defense doesn't explain the Golden Eagles' 6-for-15 performance from the free-throw line.
"There's no excuse for our free throw shooting," Crean said. "There really isn't."
Marquette has lost two straight, the first time in eight seasons under Crean that they have opened conference play with two losses.
Crean said the Golden Eagles might have been thrown off by injuries to Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews, who bumped heads during practice Monday. Matthews played in the loss to Providence on Thursday but McNeal sat out.
McNeal said he felt "good" in his return on Sunday but didn't feel so good about the team's shooting.
"It's just a matter of time before the shots start falling," McNeal said.
Eric Devendorf scored a season-high 20 points to lead the Orange. Devendorf is Syracuse's second-leading scorer, but hasn't started the past seven games.
"He has been playing well," Boeheim said. "People talk about starting. Starting doesn't matter. It's how many minutes you play. I thought he did the things he needed to do."
Syracuse went into a prolonged shooting slump after an acrobatic driving layup by Devendorf gave the Orange a 48-46 lead with 9:05 remaining.
The Golden Eagles tied the game 55-55 on a 3-pointer by David Cubillan with 4:03 remaining. But Demetris Nichols' 3-pointer broke Syracuse's drought with 2:31 left, putting the Orange up 59-55. Nichols had 17 points, rebounding from a subpar performance against Pittsburgh.
"He made the hardest shot he had to take the whole night, and that was the ballgame, that shot," Boeheim said. "We were tough down the stretch defensively."
Marquette finished with 23 turnovers to equal its season high. Syracuse finished with 20.
James, the Golden Eagles' leading scorer, was 3-for-12 from the field and 0-for-7 from 3-point range.
"You have got to keep him outside," Boeheim said. "You can't let him get to the lane. I thought for the most part we did that. We were good defensively."
Matthews said Marquette needs to move the ball around to give James more room.
"It's tough," said Matthews, who added 14 points. "He's a marquee player, and a lot of teams are scouting him."
The Orange had lost their first three games against ranked opponents this season - to No. 10 Pittsburgh at home Thursday, and Wichita State and Oklahoma State in December.
But Sunday was only the second true road game of the season for the Orange.
"Everybody talked about us playing home games, and we did play a lot of home games," Boeheim said. "But if you look at them, we had a lot of trouble. We have had nothing but tough games."
It was the teams' first meeting since 1985, a 71-53 home victory for Syracuse. The Golden Eagles joined the Big East last season but did not face the Orange in conference play.