Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Re-'Rauting' The Script

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is an option.

Syracuse's Andy Rautins experienced both last year, as the guard on an injury-riddled orange team was relegated to the role of cheerleader.

"It was a very frustrating year for me," recalls Rautins, who's been sublime this post-season.

"Not being able to play and contribute, it was the first time I've really been dealt that hand so it was a pretty tough experience."

Rautins also said it was tough watching the season unfold in the fashion it did. Rautins, a fourth-year junior and an elderstatesman on a roster littered with neophytes, is apparently making up for lost time.

The watermark for inconsistency at times during the regular season, Rautins has come into his own this post-season.

The quick-strike sniper scored 20 points and bagged timely 3-pointers in Cuse's epic, historic, and admittedly grueling 6OT thrill-ride victory over UConn in the Big East tournament.

During the sixth overtime and an ungodly hour at Madison Square Garden, Rautins kick-started Syracuse's deal-sealing sequence.

That critical trifecta proved to be the go-ahead basket for the Orange.

The slender shooter who went off against DePaul, draining a school-record nine trey bombs, has dialed in from deep and added some range to his threeball.

He's buried threes from the parking lot and created a formidable triumvirate in the backcourt with sharpshooter Eric Devendorf and standout point guard Jonny Flynn.

Devendorf has left the nets burnt to a crisp. The Bay City, MI product--who, like Flynn, embraced the big game beast within him during the aforementioned Big East Tournament--buried five treys en route to a game high 21 points during Cuse's 78-67 victory over Arizona State in Sunday's South Regional.

After the Sun Devils reeled off a head-spinning 15-4 run, slicing their defecit to four with 6:33 remaining, Rautins answered. Gutting the mounting pressure like a fish, Rautins canned a corner trey.

The shot seemed to swing the momentum-seesaw back on the Orange-drenched side of American Airlines Arena. "Andy's shot was the difference," said Cuse coach Jim Boeheim of the trey that kick-started a quick 9-O surge, held off a late charge and led the Orange to a convincing 78-67 triumph.

"And that was the ballgame."

Rautins came to Syracuse with the pressure of being a legacy.

His father, Leo Rautins--a fixture in the stands in both home, away and neutral court games--put together a storied stay at Syracuse.

Leo self-boasts that he's a better shooter than his youngest son.

During his era, Leo was more relied on as a scorer. He often had the green light to call his own number and take over the game with his scoring.

Andy, who scored 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting Sunday, is regarded as a better passer. His shooting has taken off this season, however, and the kid from Jamesville DeWitt HS (Jamesville, NY) has shouldered the weight of accomplishment.

Fitting, because Syracuse--which has a sweet 16 date with No.2 Oklahoma Friday in memphis--is burning to stake their claim as one of the country's select few.

Will this group march into uncharted territory this season?

If role players like Rautins continue to deliver in crunch time, it's almost certain.