Historic win for Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim

600304.jpg

Historic win for Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim

From Comcast SportsNetSYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- Jim Boeheim achieved another milestone in his impressive career at Syracuse, and yet passing Bob Knight for second place all-time on the victory list almost seemed like an afterthought."I'm proud to be able to do that. I'm happy to get it done," Boeheim said after his seventh-ranked Orange had defeated Rutgers 78-53 on Wednesday night for his 903rd victory, one more than Knight among men's Division I coaches. "To me, this game is not about numbers, it really isn't. It's not about how many points you score or the assists you get. It's about all the people, all the people you meet on the way. It's been an unbelievable experience."Boeheim, in his 37th season at his alma mater, trails only Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, who has 940 victories, and he was more touched by the phone calls and letters than anything else."I got a call from (former St. John's star) Chris Mullin, I think after 900," Boeheim said. "That call meant as much to me as anything because he's the best player, you could argue, who's played in this league. And I got a note from (Butler) coach Brad Stevens, which is interesting because I'm probably his biggest fan. He just thanked me for my contributions to the game."If a young coach thinks that way about me, then I'm really happy. That's what I'm really proud about."Boeheim was also proud of the way Syracuse (13-1, 1-0 Big East) performed en route to its 33rd straight home victory, the longest active streak in the nation. The Orange have beaten Rutgers (9-3, 0-1) 13 straight times.Brandon Triche had a season-high 25 points, hitting 5 of 7 3-point attempts, and added six assists and four steals to lead Syracuse. Michael Carter-Williams finished with 12 points and 10 assists, his eighth double-double, and C.J. Fair had 15 points and three blocks.Eli Carter led Rutgers with 19 points while Myles Mack, who entered the game averaging 14.5 points, did not score and was 0 of 3 from behind the arc. He entered the game leading the Big East at 51.2 percent from 3-point range.The Scarlet Knights had won five straight but were no match for Syracuse in coach Mike Rice's first game back after a three-game, 16-day suspension for inappropriate behavior and language. Rutgers went 3-0 under associate head coach David Cox, capped by a 68-56 win over Rider on Friday.Rice was suspended without pay and fined 50,000 on Dec. 13 for a violation of athletic department policy. Rice, 43, who returned to the team on Saturday, is in his third season at Rutgers. A former guard at Fordham, Rice came to Rutgers from Robert Morris, where he took the Colonials to the NCAA tournament twice.Rutgers has defeated three top 10 teams at home under Rice, but the program has never accomplished the feat on the road. Syracuse won the game with a 21-0 run over the final 6:42 of the first half to break open what had been a tight affair.Rutgers committed 10 turnovers in each half and was outscored 20-7 on the fast break."We're really good when we're scoring and things are going our way," Rice said. "The team response -- we lacked the energy, we lacked the toughness. In this league, bad things are going to happen, whether it's missed shots or turnovers, which we really couldn't have against Syracuse, but we had them."How are you going to respond defensively? That's what limits their runs, and our defense was a no-show after we stopped scoring."Carter's runner in the lane at 8:07 gave Rutgers its only lead at 20-18. It was the final basket of the period for the Scarlet Knights. They missed seven shots, committed three fouls and had two shots blocked as the Orange ran away.Fair followed his own miss to start the Orange surge and consecutive baskets by Carter-Williams, the second a pretty underhanded scoop with reverse spin, gave Syracuse an eight-point lead.Triche's fast-break layup after a block by Fair and a bank shot off the glass by Rakeem Christmas kept the Orange rolling, and James Southerland's transition 3 made it 35-20 with 2:22 to play."It did snowball," said Austin Johnson, who had six points and four rebounds for the Scarlet Knights. "It's a tough place to play. We just have to remain confident and do what we know we're capable of out there. If we do that, we can compete with anybody. Tonight was definitely a clunker."Triche's lob to Southerland completed the run as Syracuse finished the half 14 of 29 (48.3 percent) from the field while holding Rutgers to 8 of 29 (27.6 percent). About the only mistake the Orange made was Christmas's turnover out of bounds in the final seconds as Syracuse tried to hold for the final shot.At the outset, the game had the makings of a barnburner. Triche hit three 3-pointers in the first 6 minutes of play, all off assists by Carter-Williams as the Orange gained an early lead. But Carter kept pace with three 3s and another 3 from the wing by Jerome Seagears tied it at 16.The score was tied four times before Syracuse took control."We were playing really well and we were down two," Boeheim said. "I was getting ready for it to be a battle right down to the end, so I'm shocked at what happened during that period of time. We were playing well. Then we started playing even better."Both teams are leaving the conference, Syracuse after the season for the Atlantic Coast Conference and Rutgers for the Big Ten at a date that's still to be determined.

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

bruins_ryan_spooner_120216.jpg

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him.