For Syracuse center Craig Forth, there’s something about Missouri.
Forth, a 7-foot, 259-pound senior, had one of his stronger games against Missouri last season, getting 11 points and a career-high four assists in the Orangemen’s 76-69 win. On Wednesday, he continually found openings underneath the basket on his way to a career-high 18 points.
Forth said the reason for his success was simple.
“I just made all my layups … what do you know?” he said.
Forth was the beneficiary of Syracuse’s aggressive guards, who combined for 11 assists to two turnovers. Guards Josh Pace and Billy Edelin were continually able to break through the Missouri defense, draw a double team, then find Forth for the layup underneath.
Syracuse forward Hakim Warrick drew much of the Tigers’ defensive focus, constantly receiving double teams. Warrick managed 19 shots and made seven of them for 21 points. The extra attention allowed Forth to have the best night of his collegiate career.
“Every time (Warrick) got doubled, Craig moved to the ball and he found him,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.
Again, for Forth the solution was simple: If Warrick has two men on him, there would be an opening somewhere.
“We just realized they were doubling Hak every single time,” he said. “That’s just the way it is: If you double somebody, somebody else is going to be open.”
Forth had 10 points at halftime, converting 5-of-6 shots. Forth, averaging 4.8 points, good for fifth on the team entering the game, was tied with Warrick as Syracuse’s leading scorer after 20 minutes.
Forth’s contributions came on the defensive end as well, where he limited Missouri center Arthur Johnson to eight points on 3-of-8 shooting. They were physical throughout the game, but Forth was able to handle the heavier, stronger Johnson.
“He bumped me, and I bumped him right back,” Forth said. “I think I played him pretty well.”
BOEHEIM PASSES WOODEN: Syracuse’s victory gave Boeheim 665 wins, pushing him past legendary UCLA coach John Wooden on the all-time list. Boeheim is alone in 19th place.
Dean Smith, former North Carolina coach, tops the list with 879 career wins. Former Missouri coach Norm Stewart is 19th with 728.
WRAPPED UP IN THE ZONE: Syracuse, which used a 2-3 zone on defense throughout its run to the national championship last season, primarily used a man-to-man defense early this season. Boeheim was aware Missouri struggled against the zone and used it for much of the game.
The Orangemen switched to a man defense for a short time in the first half, but Boeheim quickly moved away from that.
“We tried man-to-man twice and they had two dunks,” he said. “So I think it was a good idea to not try that again.”
GETTING TECHNICAL: Jimmy McKinney was assessed a technical foul as the game entered a television timeout with 11:30 left.
McKinney bumped Forth as they headed to their benches, and the official found the contact too physical to occur during a stoppage. The foul was McKinney’s fourth, forcing him to the bench for much of the rest of the game.
Syracuse guard Gerry McNamara converted both free throws, extending the team’s lead to 57-42 and drawing much of the energy out of the sellout crowd of 13,611.
After the game, McKinney said he was amazed the technical was called.
“I talked to (Forth) about it; he knows I didn’t elbow him,” McKinney said. “It was a call that really hurt.”
OUTREBOUNDED AGAIN: Syracuse outrebounded Missouri 41-36, the third consecutive game the Tigers allowed their opponent to gather more rebounds. Warrick had seven of Syracuse’s 15 offensive rebounds, forcing the Tigers into stretches of defense that lasted more than a minute long. The differential sapped Missouri on the offensive end: the Tigers made 2-of-14 3-pointers in the second half.
Johnson said the problem was a matter of hustle, which Syracuse looked to have more of.
“(We need to) just put a body on them,” Johnson said. “That’s all we have to do.”
IN ATTENDENCE: Former Missouri forward Doug Smith watched the game from the first row behind the press section, and Dan Dierdorf, a former St. Louis Cardinal football player, also attended the game.
After Saturday’s game against Texas A&M brought eight NBA scouts to Hearnes, 21 more came to watch Monday’s contest.