Syracuse Searching to Get Back on Track
After a week off following a loss to North Carolina State on the road, Syracuse opened a stretch of four of five games against ranked opponents.
The Orange tipped-off that gauntlet against #18 Louisville. Syracuse used a 21-5 run, capped off by a layup by Oshae Brissett, with 4:04 remaining in the first half to take a 26-13 lead. The Orange entered the break with a 35-23 advantage. Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone continued to befuddle the Cardinals in the second stanza as the Orange pulled away to earn a 69-49 victory—their third over a ranked opponent this season.
Syracuse held Louisville to just 25.9-percent from the floor and forced the Cardinals into 13 turnovers. The Orange shot at a 38.6-percent clip, including 11-of-30 (46.2-percent) from beyond the arc.
Jordan Nwora led Louisville with 11 points and six rebounds.
Elijah Hughes stuffed the stat sheet for the Orange. The East Carolina transfer tallied 18 points, pulled down six rebounds, blocked two shots, and came away with two steals. Brissett added 16 points, on 7-of-15 shooting, and eight rebounds. Buddy Boeheim came off the bench and scored 14 points, on 5-of-10 from the field, including 4-of-9 from three point range, and four rebounds. Tyus Battle finished with 11 points, four rebounds, and seven assists.
After the big win over Louisville, tragedy struck the Syracuse University community when head coach Jim Boeheim struck and killed a pedestrian, 51 year-old Jorge Jimenez, on I-690 in Syracuse on his way home from the game. Boeheim was not charged, but has since stated that the events of that night will follow him for the rest of his life and will not get better with time.
Syracuse University Athletic Director, John Wildhack, insisted that Boeheim coach against Duke. Due to the tragic events, ESPN pulled their GameDay crew from covering the matchup between the Blue Devils and the Orange.
On Saturday evening, Syracuse hosted Duke in front of a record crowd of 35,642 fans inside the Dome—the largest on campus crowd for a college basketball game ever. It was an emotional scene as Boeheim emerged from the tunnel and was greeted by the support of the Orange faithful and embraced longtime friend Coach K at center court.
The game would go on, however, and Syracuse took a 34-29 lead into halftime. The top-ranked Blue Devils bounced back in the final twenty minutes and used a 7-0 spurt, capitalized by a dunk by RJ Barrett with 4:49 left, to take a 65-56 advantage that they would not relinquish the rest of the way. Duke exited the Dome with a 75-65 win.
The Blue Devils shot 44.1-percent from the field and held Syracuse to just a 34.3-percent. Duke outrebounded the Orange 44-40.
The Blue Devils, who were without the services of likely #1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, Zion Williamson, were paced by Barrett who poured in 30 points, on 14-of-20 from the floor, five rebounds, and three assists. Alex O’Connell netted 20 points, on 6-of-9 shooting, including 5-of-8 from distance, and five rebounds. Tre Jones, who was injured in the first half of the Syracuse’s win over Duke on January 14th, contributed with 11 points, three rebounds, and four assists.
Battle led Syracuse with 16 points and three rebounds. Hughes added 12 points and seven rebounds. Frank Howard and Marek Dolezaj impacted the game in many different ways. Howard finished with 10 points, six rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and two steals, while Dolezaj came off the bench and added 10 points, on 5-of-8 from the field, five rebounds, and three steals.
The Orange traveled to Chapel Hill to take on #5 North Carolina in an attempt to avoid losing back-to-back games in ACC play for the first time in the 2018-19 campaign. Syracuse raced out to an early 15-6 lead, but he Tar Heels bounced back to cut the Orange’s advantage to just one, 15-14, when Cameron Johnson drained a triple with 15:56 to go in the opening stanza. Syracuse took an eight point lead, 44-36, on a trey by Hughes with 2:13 to play in the first half. The Orange took a 46-43 advantage into halftime. Following intermission, North Carolina ripped off a 15-3 run, capped off by a dunk by Garrison Brooks, to take a 58-43 lead with 15:15 remaining. Syracuse refused to go away. The Orange tied the game at 63 on a dunk by Battle with 11:16 left. Syracuse failed to take the lead the rest of the way and the Tar Heels rolled to a 93-85 win.
The Orange shot 48.3-percent from the floor and connected on 14 of their 31 attempts from three-point land. Syracuse held North Carolina to 40.3-percent from the field and 9-of-29 from three. The difference in the game was the charity stripe. The referees were calling the game close, but the calls were especially in the favor of the Tar Heels in the first half. North Carolina shot 34-of-37 from the free throw line, while the Orange converted just 13 of their 23 attempts from the line. The Tar Heels also outrebounded Syracuse 46-25.
Coby White scored a game-high 34 points, on 9-of-14 shooting, to lead North Carolina. The freshman point guard was also 6-of-11 from deep and a perfect 10-of-10 from the free throw line. Johnson tallied 16 points and corralled seven rebounds, while Nassir Little came off the bench and knocked in 11 points and pulled down six boards.
Battle posted a team-high 29 points, on 7-of-17 from the field, five rebounds, and five assists. Hughes stuffed the stat sheet with 15 points, on 5-of-9 from three, three rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. Howard dropped in 11 points and dished out seven assists, while Brissett poured in 10 points and grabbed three rebounds.
Syracuse is now 18-10 overall and sit in sixth place in the ACC with a league record of 9-6. Coming off two losses in which they led at the half against top five teams, the Orange cannot afford to look past their game at Wake Forest on Saturday before they take on another top five opponent, #2 Virginia, on Monday.
Player of the Week: Tyus Battle
This week’s player of the week for Syracuse was Tyus Battle. Battle averaged 18.7 points, four rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. The Orange have been at their best this season when Battle has run the point and been aggressive. When he gets into the paint he can look for his own shot or kick out to an open shooter. As the calendar turns to March, Battle will need to be aggressive and look to get others involved. Last year, the Edison, New Jersey native was a key contributor to Syracuse’s run to the Sweet Sixteen and he will need to be even better if the Orange want to position themselves for another deep run.
Up Next: Wake Forest and Virginia
Syracuse will continue their road trip throughout North Carolina, when they take on Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. Tip-off is set for noon. The Demon Deacons are 11-16 on the season, 4-11 in the ACC, and are coming off a 76-75 win over Miami on Tuesday. Wake Forest is led by Brandon Childress who is averaging 15 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game.
The Orange will return home to face #2 Virginia on ESPN’s “Big Monday.” Tip-off is set for 7pm. The Cavaliers sit tied for first in the ACC with North Carolina and are 25-2 overall (with their only two losses coming to Duke), 13-2 in conference, and are coming off an 81-51 win over Georgia Tech Wednesday night. Virginia will host Pittsburgh on Saturday before heading north to square off against Syracuse. The Cavaliers are led by De’Andre Hunter who is averaging 15.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and two assists per contest.