The 8-seed in the West Region, Syracuse, took on the 9-seed, Baylor, on Thursday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Bears jumped out to an early 15-4 lead after King McClure drained a triple with 15:48 left in the first half. The Orange responded and gained a 28-25 advantage with 6:53 to go before the break when Tyus Battle converted a four-point play. Baylor took a 38-37 lead into halftime. Battle’s dunk with 13:01 remaining in the game gave Syracuse a 53-50 edge. With the score knotted at 57, Jared Butler gave the Bears the lead for good when he nailed a three-pointer with 9:20 to play. Baylor pulled away and earned a 78-69 win.
The Orange were without the services of senior point guard Frank Howard who ended a rollercoaster career by being suspended for failing a drug test. Syracuse was looking to get Howard going in the NCAA Tournament after he tallied a career-high 28 points, on 11-of-20 shooting, when Duke eliminated the Orange from the ACC Tournament a week earlier.
The Bears shot 53.8-percent from the field, including 16-of-34 from deep, which proved to be too much for Syracuse to handle. The Orange shot just 41.2-percent from the floor, including 12-of-29 from beyond the arc in the losing effort.
Baylor was led by Yale-transfer Makai Mason who scored 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Mason also recorded four rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Jared Butler added 14 points, five rebounds, four assists, and two steals, while Mario Kegler dropped in 13 points and grabbed four boards.
Elijah Hughes paced Syracuse with 25 points, on 7-of-15-from the field, three rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. Battle, who declared for the NBA Draft on Friday, poured in 16 points and dished out three assists in his final game in an Orange uniform. Oshae Brissett finished with 14 points, on 6-of-12 from the floor, and eight boards in the loss.
Syracuse finished the season with a record of 20-14 and a first round exit from the NCAA Tournament—a relatively disappointing result for a team that returned all five starters from a team that made a run to the Sweet Sixteen a season ago.
Baylor’s season was ended in the second round of the NCAA Tournament when they lost to the 1-seed in the West, Gonzaga, 83-71, in Salt Lake City on Saturday night.
Next season, Syracuse will lose Frank Howard to graduation and Tyus Battle to the NBA Draft, but aside from that, it is unclear what everyone else’s plans are. Paschal Chukwu could apply for an extra season due to having his redshirt-sophomore campaign shortened due to an eye injury. Oshae Brissett may enter the NBA Draft, but it is likely he will return for his junior season after not living up to the hype in his sophomore season. Elijah Hughes, Marek Dolezaj, and Bourama Sidibe will return for their junior seasons, while Buddy Boeheim, Jalen Carey, and Robert Braswell will come back for their sophomore seasons. Howard Washington will join the active roster once again for his redshirt-sophomore season after missing this year recovering from a torn ACL and a stroke. The Orange will add a freshman class of Brycen Goodine, Quincy Guerrier, John Bol Ajak, and New York State’s all-time leading high school scorer, Joe Girard III.
Syracuse entered the ACC Tournament feeling pretty good about their NCAA Tournament chances for the first time since 2013.
Despite being without leading scorer Tyus Battle due a lower back injury, the Orange defeated Pittsburgh, 73-59, in the first round of the ACC Tournament on Wednesday night. Syracuse trailed the Panthers, 36-30, at halftime, but used an 8-0 run with all 8 points scored by Buddy Boeheim to take a 43-39 lead early in the second stanza. The Orange would not relinquish the lead the rest of the way.
After shooting 60-percent from three-point range in the first half, Pittsburgh cooled down and shot just 30.8-percent from deep after the break. Conversely, Syracuse heated up from beyond the arc down the stretch, shooting 54.6-percent from three in the second half.
Jared Wilson-Frame led the Panthers with 24 points, on 8-of-16 from three-point land, and seven rebounds. Sidy N’Dir added 10 points in the losing effort.
Boeheim paced Syracuse with 20 points, on 6-of-13 shooting, six rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Elijah Hughes and Frank Howard scored 18 points apiece. Hughes also grabbed four rebounds, dished out three assists, and came away with two steals.
The Orange squared off with Duke in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament on Thursday night. Battle missed his second straight game with a lower back injury. After rallying back from as much as a 17 point deficit in the first half, Syracuse tied the game at 46 on a triple by Boeheim with 13:02 to go. The Blue Devils pulled away down the stretch to win 84-72.
In a turnover plagued affair, Duke outshot the Orange as the Blue Devils shot 53.7-percent from the floor, compared to 48.1-percent shooting for Syracuse.
The real difference in the game was that Duke has the best player in the country and the likely #1 pick in the NBA Draft Zion Williamson. Williamson, who returned after missing five consecutive games with a sprained knee, erupted for 29 points on a perfect 13-of-13 from the floor, 14 rebounds, and five steals. Fellow freshman phenomenon RJ Barrett tallied 23 points, on 8-of-16 from the field, and six rebounds. Freshman point guard Tre Jones finished with 15 points and eight assists.
Howard led the Orange with a career-high 28 points, on 11-of-2o shooting, and three assists. Boeheim poured in 15 points, while Oshae Brissett finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.
Despite the loss, Syracuse entered the NCAA Tournament with a record of 20-13. Howard was named to the ACC Tournament Second Team, while Williamson was named the MVP after Duke won the championship game over Florida State, 73-63, Saturday night.
Battle is expected to return in the NCAA Tournament, but playing without him in the ACC Tournament gave others the opportunity to step up, specifically, Howard and Boeheim.
Player of the Week: Frank Howard
This week’s player of the week for Syracuse was Frank Howard. After a lower leg injury caused him to miss the first four games of the season, Howard did not play to the form he showed he was capable of during his junior campaign. The senior point guard averaged 23 points on 50-percent shooting in Battle’s absence at the ACC Tournament. With Battle back and Howard and Boeheim shooting with confidence, the Orange just might be poised to make another run in the “Big Dance.”
Up Next: The NCAA Tournament vs. #9 Baylor
For the first time since 2013, Syracuse did not have to sweat it out on Selection Sunday. This year, the Orange were firmly in and earned the 8-seed in the West Region. Syracuse will take on the 9-seed Baylor in Salt Lake City, Utah. Tip-off is set for Thursday night at 9:57pm. The game will be seen on truTV. The Bears are 19-13 overall and are coming off an 83-66 loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals. Baylor is led by Tristan Clark who is averaging 14.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
If the Orange were to defeat the Bears, they would take on the winner of the game between the 1-seed Gonzaga and the 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson, who defeated Prairie View in the First Four Tuesday night.
Syracuse amid Two-Game Skid Heading into the ACC Tournament
After losing to #2 Virginia at home on Monday night, Syracuse traveled to Clemson on Saturday in hopes of avoiding two consecutive losses heading into the ACC Tournament. The Orange jumped out to an early 23-13 lead with 6:48 left in the opening stanza following a free throw by Oshae Brissett. Buddy Boeheim connected on a jumped with 14 seconds left in the frame to give Syracuse a 31-24 advantage at the halftime. Bourama Sidibe made a layup with 15:53 remaining to give the Orange a 38-33 lead. The Tigers responded with a 14-0 run, capped off by a free throw by David Skara, to take a commanding 47-38 advantage with 11:27 to go that would prove to be too much for Syracuse to overcome down the stretch. Clemson pulled away to earn a 67-55 win to improve their NCAA Tournament resume in the regular season finale for both teams.
It was an ugly game for both sides. The Tigers shot just 33.9-percent from the field, including just 5-of-20 from three, and turned the ball over 15 times. On the other hand, the Orange shot it at a 37.5-percent clip, including 6-of-19 from deep, and turned the ball over 18 times. The difference in the game was Clemson’s strength on the glass. The Tigers outrebounded Syracuse 45-30.
Marcquise Reed posted a double-double with 24 points, on 7-of-17 from the floor, 10 rebounds, and five steals to lead Clemson. Elijah Thomas posted a double-double of his own with 13 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks, and two steals. Shelton Mitchell added 10 points, three rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
Brissett paced the Orange with 15 points, seven rebounds, and three assists. Boeheim chipped in with 11 points off the bench, while All-ACC Third Team performer, Tyus Battle, finished with 10 points and three rebounds.
With the loss, Syracuse finished the regular season with an overall record of 19-12 and 10-8 in the ACC. The Orange earned the six-seed and a first round bye in this week’s ACC Tournament when Louisville fell at Virginia on Saturday.
Player of the Week: Oshae Brissett
This week’s player of the week for Syracuse was Oshae Brissett. The versatile Canadian prospect has failed live up to the standard he set as a freshman averaging only 12.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game this season, compared to 14.9 points and 8.8 boards a year ago. However, he is still an important piece to the puzzle for the Orange. Brissett’s efficiency has always been a question mark, but his shooting percentage has jumped from 35.4-percent last season to 39.1-percent this year. His free throw percentage and three-point percentage have both taken a hit this season though. He went from being a reliable 78.7-percent free throw shooter as a freshman to shooting just 66.7-percent from the charity stripe in his sophomore campaign. Brissett set his sights on possibly entering the NBA Draft this year, but a major strike against him will be that he has shot just 26.5-percent from three-point range, down from 33.1-percent a season ago. If he can buck these trends, as he did against Clemson when he shot 5-of-5 from the line and 2-of-2 from beyond the arc, the Orange will be poised to make noise in the postseason once again.
Up Next: The ACC Tournament vs. #11 Boston College/#14 Pittsburgh
Sixth-seeded Syracuse will take on either the 11-seed Boston College or the 14-seed Pittsburgh in the Second Round of the ACC Tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina on Wednesday night at 9:30pm. The Orange swept the season series from both the Eagles and the Panthers. Syracuse beat Boston College 77-71 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts on January 30th and 67-56 in the Carrier Dome on February 9th. The Orange defeated Pittsburgh 74-63 at home on January 19th and 65-56 at the Peterson Events Center on February 2nd. The Eagles finished the regular season 14-16 overall, 5-13 in the ACC, while the Panthers are 13-18 overall and 3-15 in ACC play. Boston College is led by Ky Bowman who is averaging 19.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, and four assists per game, while Xavier Johnson leads Pittsburgh as he is averaging 15.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per contest.
If Syracuse were to win their second round game, they would take on third-seeded Duke in the quarterfinals on Thursday at 9:30pm.
Siena entered the MAAC Tournament as the five-seed and took on fourth-seeded Rider in the quarterfinals on Saturday night. The Saints raced out to a 19-12 lead following a jumper by Jalen Pickett with 11:42 left in the first half. With the score knotted at 27, Frederick Scott’s layup gave the Broncs a two point advantage. Sloan Seymour knocked down a three-pointer to give Siena a 30-29 lead entering the break. The second stanza was a back-and-forth affair, but the Saints used a decisive 13-1 run, capped off by a layup by Kevin Degnan, to take a 77-66 advantage with 1:27 to go. Siena sunk their foul shots down the stretch and hung on to win 87-81.
Siena scored a season-high 57 points in the second half and shot a blistering 81-percent from the field in the final twenty minutes. Rider held a 44-22 edge in points in the paint and 27-3 on second chance points, but the Saints outscored the Broncs 36-21 from three-point range. For the game, Siena shot 65.1-percent from the floor and held Rider to 46.3-percent shooting. The Saints connected on 12-of-21 of their attempts from deep, while the Broncs converted on just 7-of-23 of their shots from deep.
Rider was led by their big man, Tyere Marshall, who scored 22 points, on 10-of-15 from the field, eight rebounds, and two blocks.
Siena’s balanced attack was paced by Evan Fisher’s 22 points, on 7-of-11 from the floor, and six rebounds. Pickett tallied 20 points, dished out six assists, blocked four shots, and came away with two steals. Seymour dropped career-highs of 18 points and six made threes. Degnan added 13 points and seven rebounds, while Kadeem Smithen chipped in with 11 points, three assists, and two steals off the bench.
Pickett recorded his 65th steal of his freshman campaign, which broke Marquis Wright’s freshman record set during the 2013-14 season.
Siena faced top-seeded and defending MAAC Tournament Champion Iona in the semifinals. The Gaels jumped out to an early 7-0 lead following a layup by Ben Perez with 18:20 remaining in the opening stanza. Smithen connected on back-to-back threes to pull the Saints within one, 7-6, with 16:50 to play before intermission. Iona led by as many as 16 in the first half, but Rickey McGill’s buzzer beater gave the Gaels a 35-22 advantage at the break. Siena never trailed by less than double-digits over the course of the final twenty minutes and Iona ended the Saints’ season, handing them a 73-57 defeat.
For the fourth time in the last five years, Iona defeated Siena in the MAAC Tournament.
Iona, being the one-seed, had an extra day of rest between the quarterfinals and the semifinals. The Gaels looked well-rested, while Siena came out noticeably flat. Iona shot 49.1-percent from the field, including 9-0f-20 from three. The Gaels held the Saints to 37.3-percent from the floor. Siena converted on just 8-of-28 of their attempts from deep.
Iona was led by Asante Gist who finished with 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting.
Pickett and Fisher led the Saints scoring 15 points apiece. Pickett pulled down seven rebounds and dished out eight assists, while Fisher grabbed five rebounds and blocked two shots. Fisher was ejected after picking up his second technical foul with 2:48 to go. The senior left the Times Union Center for the final time and waived to the crowd as the student section chanted his name.
Siena closed out their first season under head coach Jamion Christian with a record of 17-16, a nine-win improvement from last year’s disaster under former head coach Jimmy Patsos. In the season-ending loss to Iona, the Saints set the single-season record for three-pointers made in program history with 284.
Next year, the Saints will be without the services of seniors Kevin Degnan, Kadeem Smithen, Braedon Bayer, Paulo Morastoni, and Second Team All-MAAC selection Evan Fisher.
Two key returners to next season’s team are MAAC Rookie of the Year and First Team All-MAAC performer, Jalen Pickett, and MAAC Rookie Team Selection Sloan Seymour.
Syracuse Splits with Wake Forest and Virginia—Regular Season Finale Ahead
After losing back-to-back games for the first time in ACC play, Syracuse looked to get back on track when they took on Wake Forest and #2 Virginia this week.
The Orange traveled to Winston-Salem, North Carolina on Saturday to square off against Wake Forest. Syracuse used a 14-4 run, capped off by a jumper by Tyus Battle, to take a 20-11 lead with 12:02 left in the first half. The Orange built their largest advantage of the opening stanza, 34-20, when Marek Dolezaj converted a layup off an assist from Frank Howard with 5:09 remaining in the opening stanza. The Demon Deacons rattled off a 10-4 spurt to pull within eight, 38-30, at the break. Wake Forest got the closest they would in the final twenty minutes when Sharone Wright Jr. dropped in a layup to make it 40-35 Syracuse with 19:14 to go. The Demon Deacons would get no closer the rest of the way. Elijah Hughes gave Syracuse a 60-37 lead when he capped off the decisive 20-2 run with a layup assisted by Howard with 11:17 to play. The Orange coasted to a 79-54 victory over Wake Forest.
Syracuse shot 54.4-percent from the field and held the Demon Deacons to just 32.7-percent shooting. The Orange’s vaunted 2-3 zone forced Wake Forest into 23 turnovers, which led to Syracuse outscoring the Demon Deacons 27-15 in points off turnovers.
Wake Forest was led by Chaundee Brown who scored 14 points, on 5-of-11 shooting, and grabbed six rebounds. Brown also dished out two assists and came away with two steals. Isaiah Mucius came off the bench and finished with 10 points and three rebounds in the losing effort.
Battle paced the Orange with 21 points, on 9-of-13 from the floor, three rebounds, and five steals. Hughes added 18 points, on 8-of-12 from the field, seven rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
Syracuse returned to the Carrier Dome on Monday night to celebrate Senior Night in their final regular season home game against #2 Virginia. Seniors Frank Howard and Paschal Chukwu, along with walk-on seniors Adrian Autry, Antonio Balandi, and Ky Feldman, were honored before the game. Chukwu may be granted a medical hardship waiver as a result of the eye surgery which ended his sophomore season prematurely. If approved, he may return to the team next season.
The Orange entered halftime with a 34-32 advantage over the Cavaliers as Howard drained a triple with 42 seconds left in the opening stanza. With Syracuse clinging to a 43-42 lead following a three-pointer by Battle with 15:09 left on the clock, De’Andre Hunter drilled a trey on the ensuing possession to spark an 11-0 run for Virginia. Kyle Guy gave the Cavaliers a double-digit lead, 53-43, when he knocked down a three of his own at the 10:29 mark. Buddy Boeheim pulled the Orange within seven, 53-46, with 9:45 remaining in the game, but that was the closest Syracuse would get the rest of the way. Virginia outscored the Orange 26-7 down the stretch and claimed a 79-53 win that sent most of the 29,052 in attendance packing before the final buzzer.
The Cavaliers shot 54.9-percent from the floor, including a blistering 72-percent from beyond the arc. The Dome Effect did nothing to stymie Virginia, as the Cavaliers connected on a school record 18 threes on just 25 attempts. Syracuse shot a dreadful 33.3-percent from the floor and converted ten fewer tries from distance than Virginia did as they connected on just 8-of-25 of their attempts from three-point range.
Virginia’s “Big Three” of Guy, Hunter, and Ty Jerome, combined for 78.5-percent of the team’s scoring. Guy led the Cavaliers with 25 points, on 8-of-10 from deep, seven rebounds, and two assists. Hunter contributed with 21 points, on 7-of-13 shooting, six rebounds, four assists, and three blocks. Jerome posted a double-double with 16 points and 14 assists. Jerome also corralled three rebounds and came away with three steals.
The Orange were led by Battle, Hughes, and Boeheim who chipped in with 11 points apiece. Battle collected five rebounds, while Hughes grabbed three steals.
For the third time in as many tries, Syracuse lost a game against a top-five team in which they led at halftime. The Orange will need to play for an entire 40-minutes if they want to make another deep run in March.
With the loss, Syracuse fell to 19-11 overall and 10-7 in the ACC. The Orange are tied for sixth in the league, but hold the tiebreaker over Louisville for the #6 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament.
Player of the Week: Elijah Hughes
This week’s player of the week for Syracuse was Elijah Hughes. Hughes averaged 14.5 points, on 61.1-percent from the field, and four rebounds per game this week. The East Carolina transfer’s efficiency and aggressiveness will be a key if the Orange hope to be a factor in the postseason.
Up Next: Clemson
Syracuse will look to close out the regular season on a high note when they travel to South Carolina to battle with Clemson on Saturday. Tip-off is set for noon and the game can be seen on CBS. The Tigers are 17-12, 7-9 in the ACC and are coming off a heartbreaking 81-79 loss to North Carolina. Clemson travels to Notre Dame on Wednesday before returning home to host the Orange in their regular season finale. Syracuse hopes to sweep the season series from the Tigers as the Orange defeated Clemson 61-53 at the Carrier Dome on January 9th. The Tigers are led by Marcquise Reed who is averaging 19.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and three assists per contest.
Siena traveled to Western New York this weekend to finish out their regular season slate with games at Canisius and Niagara.
The Saints looked to split the season series in a pivotal MAAC matchup with Canisius Friday night. The Golden Griffins defeated Siena, 70-66, in Albany on January 5th. Following a hotly contested first half, the Saints took a 32-28 lead into the break. Siena took a 48-38 advantage on a layup by Manny Camper with 11:11 left. After that point, Canisius took control and outscored Siena 30-14 to pull away for a 68-62 win.
The Golden Griffins shot 46.6-percent from the field and only turned the ball over three times. Siena shot at a 40.6-percent clip and turned it over eight times.
Takal Molson led Canisius with 16 points, on 7-of-19 shooting, nine rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
Evan Fisher paced the Saints with 17 points, on 8-of-16 from the field, seven rebounds, two assists, and a steal in the losing effort. Kevin Degnan and Sloan Seymour tallied 12 points apiece. Degnan also grabbed seven rebounds. Jalen Pickett stuffed the stat sheet with 11 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, a block, and a steal.
Siena needed a win over Niagara in their final regular season contest to clinch a first round bye in next weekend’s MAAC Tournament. With the game tied at 14, the Purple Eagles used an 8-0 run, capped off by a jumper by Marvin Prochet, to open up a 22-14 lead with 5:27 remaining in the first stanza. The Saints pulled to within three, 27-24, at intermission. Niagara built an eight point advantage in the second half, when Chris Barton converted a free throw with 12:58 to go. Siena would not go away easily. Kadeem Smithen converted an old-fashioned three-point play to give the Saints a five point lead, 52-47, with 3:21 to play. Pickett converted two free throws, to give Siena a 56-53 advantage with 32 ticks on the clock. Prochet nailed a triple with 16 seconds left in regulation to tie the score at 56. Pickett’s step-back jumped at the buzzer fell off the rim and the long-time MAAC foes were headed to overtime.
The Saints controlled the opening tip of the overtime period and Fisher converted a layup just 24 seconds in to give Siena a lead that they would not relinquish. The Saints converted their free throws down the stretch and emerged with a 72-65 victory.
Siena came away victorious despite shooting just 36.1-percent from the field. The Purple Eagles shot at a 41.4-percent clip, but the Saints’ defense forced Niagara into 14 turnovers.
Prochet poured in 21 points, on 8-of-19 from the floor, and added six rebounds, eight assists, two blocks, and three steals to lead the Purple Eagles.
Pickett led the Saints with 27 points, six rebounds, eight assists, two blocks, and three steals. Fisher posted a double-double with 15 points, on 6-of-13 shooting, and 10 rebounds. Degnan finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.
With the win, Siena finished the regular season with an overall record of 16-15, 11-7 in the MAAC, and part of a four-way tie for second in the league with Canisius, Quinnipiac, and Rider. The Saints will have the fifth seed in next weekend’s MAAC Tournament and will take on the fourth seeded Rider Broncs.
Player of the Week: Jalen Pickett
This week’s player of the week for Siena was Jalen Pickett. Siena’s resurgence under first-year head coach Jamion Christian was largely due to the play of freshman stud Jalen Pickett. This past week, Pickett averaged 19 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists per game. The Rochester, New York native will likely win his MAAC-record 11th Rookie of the Week Honor this week and will probably be named the conference’s Rookie of the Year later this week as well. Pickett will need to be sharp if the Saints hope to cut down the nets a week from Monday and advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010.
Up Next: The MAAC Tournament vs. #4 Rider
Fifth-seeded Siena will square off against the fourth-seeded Rider Broncs in the quarterfinals of the MAAC Tournament on Saturday night at the Times Union Center in Albany, New York. Tip-off is set for 9:30pm. The Saints defeated Rider, 59-57, on February 10th in the lone meeting between the two teams in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. The Broncs are 16-14 overall, 11-7 in the MAAC, and are coming off a 75-64 win over Marist. Rider is led by Stevie Jordan who is averaging 12.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per contest.
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.