Orange keeps focus tight

Just basketball for No. 1 seed

calexander@newsobserver.comDecember 18, 2011 

It has been anything but a normal basketball season for the Syracuse Orangemen.

Except for the wins, that is. The Orangemen are winning.

"This is our season and we're not going to let anybody or anything come between us and that," Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine said Saturday after the No. 1 Orange whipped N.C. State 88-72. "We're all we got, man.

"When we hear about Syracuse and people talking about the scandal, it's disrespectful. We are No. 1 in the country and that's something to celebrate."

The scandal centers around former Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine, who joined Jim Boeheim's coaching staff in 1976 and became associate head coach in 2000. That ended in November, when allegations of sexual abuse directed against Fine by three men resulted in his firing.

Two former Syracuse ballboys, Bobby Davis and his stepbrother, Mike Lang, were the first to come forward and accuse Fine of sexual molestation. A third accuser, Zach Tomaselli, also said Fine molested him in 2002 when he was 13.

Boeheim first staunchly defended Fine, saying he would stand behind a man he called his longtime friend. But Boeheim later said he "misspoke very badly" in questioning the motives of Davis and Lang.

Syracuse University and Boeheim have been sued by Davis and Lang. Tomaselli has sued Fine.

"But we can't really control what's going on, on the outside," said guard Dion Waiters, who had 22 points against the Pack. "We're just here to play basketball and go to school. All we have is each other, as a family.

"We'll just continue to ignore all the negativity and things that are going on and continue to play Syracuse basketball and get better and better every day. Just let it happen and let whatever happens on the outside take care of itself."

The Orange, on a rare venture outside New York for a nonconference game, used hot shooting and 46 bench points to put away the Pack. Senior Kris Joseph had 21 points and Jardine 16 for Syracuse, which led 47-33 at the half.

The Pack pulled even in the second half and trailed just 63-61 after a Scott Wood 3-pointer with 8:38 left, but Waiters and Jardine sparked an 11-2 run for a 74-63 lead. The Orange, now 11-0, was on its way to defending its No. 1 ranking.

For 35 seasons, Fine was on the Syracuse bench. He's gone but the headlines will continue as the legal process continues.

"We don't worry about anything that goes on the outside of our program," Joseph said. "It doesn't have anything to do with us as players. Our job is to play basketball."

Waiters, a 6-4 sophomore, didn't mention Fine by name - none of the players did. It's as if they're moving on.

"We're having a really good year so far and we don't want any distractions," Waiters said.

"All we can do is come out and play basketball and represent Syracuse and try get the focus back on us instead of the negativity thing.

"We want to continue to win and make noise that way in the country."

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