Syracuse Pulls Away from Eastern Michigan to Close out Non-Conference Play
It was a tale of two halves, but Syracuse pulled away from Eastern Michigan, and former Boeheim assistant Rob Murphy, in the second stanza to win 62-47 on Wednesday night. With the win, Syracuse improved its record in non-conference play to 11-2.
The Orange looked rusty coming off their overtime loss to St. Bonaventure last Friday and the Christmas holiday, shooting just 23.8% in the opening 20 minutes. Despite the poor shooting, Syracuse connected on 12-of-15 free throws in the first half to manage a 24-24 tie with the Eagles at the break.
Syracuse outscored Eastern Michigan 38-23 after halftime and closed the game on an 18-6 run, which spanned the final 7:33.
Defensively, the Orange held the Eagles to just 37% shooting on the night and forced the visitors into 14 turnovers. Paschal Chukwu blocked 5 shots and Frank Howard grabbed 4 steals to lead the defense.
Tyus Battle led all scorers with 22 points, 16 of which came in the second half, and came away with 6 rebounds.
Chukwu recorded career-highs of 15 points and 12 rebounds. Prior to Wednesday’s game, Chukwu shot just 48% from the charity stripe on the season, but he sunk 9-of-11 attempts against the Eagles. With Bourama Sidibe sidelined due to knee and ankle injuries, Chukwu was forced to play 37 minutes at the center position and he did not relinquish the opportunity to perform in extended minutes.
Oshae Brissett also turned in a double-double as he scored 11 point and pulled down 12 rebounds. Howard fished with 11 points and 7 assists.
Elijah Minnie paced Eastern Michigan with 13 points and 5 rebounds in the losing effort.
Syracuse enters ACC play with an 11-2 record including wins over three opponents from major conferences (Maryland, Connecticut, and Georgetown). Syracuse has struggled in games where they have allowed one player to beat them. Devonte’ Graham scored 35 for Kansas when they defeated the Orange and, most recently, Jaylen Adams dropped 23 to lead St. Bonaventure over Syracuse.
Syracuse has three players, Battle, Brissett, and Howard, that are averaging double figures and the offense has struggled when any one of those three has not played to their potential. This is one of the best defensive teams Syracuse has had in a while. The Orange are long and athletic, getting into opponent’s passing lanes, and blocking shots. This team is built to play Boeheim’s patented 2-3 zone.
With Geno Thorpe leaving the program and Sidibe playing limited minutes due to injuries, Boeheim’s bench is thinner than he predicted it to be. Chukwu, Matthew Moyer, and Marek Dolezaj have produced when necessary in order to win 11 games thus far, but will need to continue to improve as ACC play moves into full force. Recently, Howard Washington’s playing time has been when Boeheim is forced to play a three guard lineup to keep the big men out of foul trouble.
Syracuse has proven that you can never count them out. Their press forces turnovers and speeds opponents up when they need to get themselves back in the game.
Syracuse opens ACC play in the friendly confines of the Carrier Dome on New Year’s Eve when they host the Virginia Tech Hokies for a 6pm tip-off.
Buzz Williams’ team is 10-2, including wins over Washington, Iowa, and Ole Miss. The Hokies are led by junior guard Ahmed Hill who is averaging 16.5 points and 4 rebounds per game. The Hokies defeated the Orange 83-73 when they met last year in Blacksburg, Virginia.