SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -Jonny Flynn is never too tired to smile, it seems, even if his freshman year at Syracuse hasn't gone as smoothly as he thought it would.
``Just dealing with all the changes in the backcourt has been tough,'' said Flynn, who has played every minute of the past five games, one of them an overtime loss at Georgetown. ``It's just kind of hard to find the chemistry.''
Now imagine how hard it's been for his head coach. Jim Boeheim has been trying to discover that elusive trait with a roster of healthy bodies that includes five freshmen, a sophomore, and a junior college transfer. Four of the team's current starters are playing their first full season of Division I ball, and they're getting indoctrinated in the most physical conference in the country.
It's the sort of challenge Boeheim relishes.
d how to respond to it, and these guys have definitely responded to it.''
Entering Big East play Wednesday night, the Orange (16-8, 6-5 Big East) were tied with Cincinnati for seventh in the conference, one-half game behind Marquette and one behind fifth-place Pitt.
``It's tough this year with injuries,'' associate head coach Bernie Fine said. ``We lost our two best shooters and we lost all the experience we had. I really think that Jim has done the best coaching job in his 32 years this year. I really believe that, with the changes that he's had to make.''
Those changes started with the loss of shooting guard Andy Rautins, who had blossomed late last season and figured to start with Eric Devendorf in the backcourt. Instead, Rautins suffered a torn ACL over the summer and was lost for the season and Devendorf, a preseason All-Big East selection at guard, joined him on the bench after tearing an ACL in mid-December.
If losing the team's two best outside threats wasn't enough, senior guard Josh Wright quit the team just before Devendorf was hurt, and Devendorf's replacement, freshman Scoop Jardine, was suspended in late January for two games for violating university policy and has played just 4 minutes since returning.
int losses - 64-62 against the No. 8 Hoyas and 63-61 at home against No. 17 Connecticut.
``Of course, we can joke about it - less decisions make every coach better, right?'' former Seton Hall coach and current television analyst Bill Raftery said. ``But he's just amazing, and with young people, too. To be able to get them to learn quickly on the run and in such a high-level league is extraordinary.''
The Orange have relied heavily on Flynn and freshman forward Donte Greene. Greene is the Orange's leading scorer at just under 18 points a game and Flynn is second at 15.4. They've been among the top three freshman scoring duos in the country for most of the season.
``I didn't expect to play 40 minutes a game like I'm doing now, but the main thing I wanted to do was win,'' Flynn said. ``It's kind of been a bumpy season for us, but we're starting to click.''
Syracuse began the season with a flourish, scoring 80 or more points 10 times in the first 15 games, including 125 against ETSU. The defense suffered, however, and that was never more evident than in home losses to UMass (107-100) and Rhode Island (91-89).
Something seems to have clicked in the past six games, though. Boeheim's signature 2-3 zone defense has held opponents to an average of 61 points.
``I think that's where coach has been great,'' Hopkins said. ``We had to find a way to win. For these guys, it's kind of been like trial by fire - go out there and perform. With the adversity we've been through, it's kind of amazing. If we win 20 games, he should be coach of the year.''

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