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.
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.
A Wild Week for the Orange Culminates with Upset over Top-Ranked Duke
Wow! Syracuse battled through a wild week defeating Clemson at home, being blown out by a subpar Georgia Tech team in the Carrier Dome, and traveling to Durham, NC to topple the #1 ranked Duke Blue Devils. Three games in six days is tough for any team, but the way the Orange weathered that storm was a script that no one could write.
Syracuse took on the Clemson Tigers on Wednesday night in their second ACC matchup of the 2018-19 campaign. The Orange jumped out to a 21-10 lead thanks to a 19-5 run capped off by a dunk by Oshae Brissett with 8:41 left in the opening stanza. Clemson shortened Syracuse’s advantage to eight, 30-22 at the half. The Orange grabbed control of the game as a triple by Elijah Hughes gave Syracuse a 51-36 edge with 9:13 remaining. The Tigers made it a six point game, 54-48, when Marcquise Reed nailed a trey with 4:46 to go, but the Orange hung on and secured four consecutive defensive stops to earn a 61-53 victory to improve to 2-0 in conference play.
Syracuse shot 41.7-percent from the field and held the Tigers to a 35.8-percent clip. The Orange’s vaunted 2-3 zone perplexed Clemson all night as the Tigers committed 17 turnovers.
Reed led Clemson with 16 points, on 5-of-13 shooting, six rebounds, and three assists. Elijah Thomas chipped in with 13 points on, on 4-of-6 from the field, and seven boards.
Hughes paced Syracuse with 14 points and seven rebounds. Tyus Battle added 12 points, three boards, and three assists. Frank Howard tallied 12 points, on 4-of-8 from the floor, pulled down five rebounds, and dished out four assists. Marek Dolezaj stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, on 3-of-5 shooting, four boards, four helpers, two blocks, and two steals.
The Orange looked to remain undefeated in league play when they squared off with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Saturday evening. Both teams struggled to score in the opening twenty minutes and Georgia Tech took a one point lead, 27-26 into the break. The Yellow Jackets blew the game wide open with a 24-7 spurt that ended with a layup by Jose Alvarado to build a 51-33 edge with 12:17 left in the game. Syracuse ran a full-court press for the final 14 minutes of the contest, but failed to get anything going offensively, which allowed Georgia Tech to pull away to a 73-59 win on the road.
The Orange had improved their shooting over the last few weeks until the Yellow Jackets’ zone stifled their offensive attack. Syracuse shot a dreadful 31.6-percent from the floor and an even more pitiful 21.2-percent from beyond the arc. Georgia Tech, on the other hand, shot the lights out—59.5-percent from the field and 50-percent from three-point land.
Alvarado led the Yellow Jackets with 19 points, on 5-of-6 from the field, and three rebounds. James Banks III poured in 16 points, on 6-of-10 from the floor, grabbed seven boards, blocked three shots, and came away with three steals. Curtis Haywood II dropped in 15 points, on 6-of-10 shooting, corralled four rebounds, and distributed seven helpers. Abdoulaye Gaeye finished with 10 points on 5-of-7 from the field.
Brissett scored a team-high 15 points, pulled in seven boards, and dished out three assists. Hughes recorded 12 points and three rebounds, while Battle contributed with 11 points.
After suffering a bad loss at home to Georgia Tech, the Orange were staring down a .500 in record in conference play as they were set to battle with #1 Duke on the road on Monday. In desperate need of a signature win, Syracuse needed a few bounces to fall their way and an improved shooting performance in order to pull off an unforeseen upset. The Blue Devils, and their four star freshman, were fresh off a last second win at Florida State two days earlier and came into tip-off favored by 17.
Cam Reddish, the third-ranked recruit in the Class of 2018 was out with flu-like symptoms, but Duke’s remaining star frosh raced out to an early 12-0 lead only three minutes into the contest. However, the tide was about to change. The Blue Devils’ freshman point guard, Tre Jones, separated his right shoulder when he collided with Howard as the two players were chasing after a loose ball five and a half minutes into the first half.
The Orange came all the way back to tie the game at 29 with 6:37 remaining in the opening stanza. Syracuse claimed their first lead of the game, 36-35, on a free throw by Paschal Chukwu with 4:49 to go before intermission. RJ Barrett, the top recruit in the Class of 2018, extended Duke’s lead with a jumper to 49-44 with 1:19 to go before the break. The Orange trimmed the Blue Devils’ halftime edge to one, 49-48, as Hughes made what could possibly be the shot of the year as his 75-foot heave at the buzzer was true.
Syracuse began the second half by taking the lead (50-49) on a layup by Brissett less than a minute in. Duke reclaimed their advantage, 52-50, on a layup by Marques Bolden with 18:49 left. The Blue Devils built an eight point edge, 67-59, on a layup by the second ranked recruit in the Class of 2018 and the leading candidate for National Player of the Year, Zion Williamson, with 13:41 to go. The Orange were not ready to go away easily. Syracuse reclaimed the lead, 81-80, with 3:10 left on a layup by Chukwu. Williamson had a chance to win it for Duke at the free throw line after a questionable foul was called on Chukwu. The diaper-dandy converted on only one-of-two attempts from the charity stripe and the game was tied at 85. Battle’s shot at the buzzer clanked off the back iron and the ACC rivals were headed to overtime for the second time since the Orange joined the conference in 2013-14.
Hughes controlled the opening tip in the extra session and raced down the court to give Syracuse and 87-85 advantage. Less than a minute into the overtime period, Alex O’Connell nailed one from deep to give the Blue Devils an 88-87 lead. On the ensuing possession, Battle hit a jumper to put the Orange ahead for good. Barrett’s three at the buzzer missed and Syracuse emerged with a 95-91 upset over #1 Duke in overtime.
With the win, the Orange improved to 12-5 on the season, 3-1 in ACC play, and Syracuse became the first school other than North Carolina to upset a top-ranked Duke team at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Orange shot 43.8-percent from the floor, including 44-percent from three, and held the Blue Devils to just 38.7-percent from the floor and a miserable 20.9-percent from behind the three-point line. Syracuse outrebounded Duke 51-48.
Williamson led the Blue Devils with a career-high 35 points, on 12-of-20 shooting, and 10 rebounds to record a double-double. Williamson also blocked four shots. Barrett was an assist shy of a triple-double with 23 points, on 8-of-30 from the field, 16 rebounds, and nine assists. Bolden recorded a double-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds, and five blocks off the bench, while O’Connell came off the pine to hang 16 points, three rebounds, and three assists on the Orange in the losing effort.
Battle paced Syracuse with 32 points, on 12-of-28 from the floor, four rebounds, and four assists. Hughes added 20 points, on 7-of-15 shooting, and five boards. Howard scored 16 points in the second half, on 7-of-13 from the field, corralled six rebounds, and dished out five assists. Brissett finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, while Chukwu came off the bench and recorded a double-double featuring 10 points, a career-high 18 rebounds, and three blocks.
Coach Boeheim commented on his team’s win over Duke in his postgame press conference. “When (Chukwu) plays like that,” Boeheim said, “we’re a different team.”
Coach K commented on the result in his postgame press conference. “This was a very difficult night for our basketball program,” K said. “We’ll figure out ways of handling it.”
Player of the Week: Paschal Chukwu
From Battle’s first half dominance against Duke and Hughes’ continued steady play, this week’s player of the week for Syracuse was Paschal Chukwu. After not playing against Clemson, and playing just 15 minutes against Georgia Tech, Chukwu played the game of his life in helping the Orange earn a signature win at #1 Duke. He was a force inside against Williamson and stepped up to hit key free throws and collected rebounds down the stretch to get defensive stops when his team needed it most. If Chukwu can build on Monday night’s performance and be a legitimate threat on the interior, Syracuse will be able to remain atop the ACC standings.
Up Next: Pittsburgh
The Orange return home to face Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon. Tip-off is set for 2pm. After being the laughing stock of the ACC a year ago, first-year head coach Jeff Capel has rejuvenated the program. The Panthers are 12-5 overall, 2-2 in conference, and are coming off a 75-62 win against #11 Florida State on Monday night. Pitt is led by Xavier Johnson who is averaging 17.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per contest. Last season, Syracuse swept the season series from the Panthers.
Let’s take a look at some of the teams that dominated the storylines in college basketball in the month of December.
Studs: Duke, Tennessee, Nevada, Florida State
Duke Blue Devils
The Duke Blue Devils are 11-1 and haven’t lost since they were defeated by Gonzaga in the finals of the Maui Invitational on Thanksgiving Eve. Since then, Duke has taken down the likes of Indiana and #12 Texas Tech. Zion Williamson has emerged as the star of the team, even though it has three other top-tier freshman in RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Tre Jones. Williamson has been an absolute beast and has catapulted the Blue Devils back to the top of the polls. He presents a matchup nightmare for almost every team in the country and has been a monster in all phases of the game. Yes, his dunks are highlight worthy on a nightly basis, but the play of the year thus far may have been that he jumped so high to block a shot against Princeton that he hit his head on the backboard. Williamson is averaging 19.8 points, on 65.2-percent from the field, and 9.4 rebounds per game. His efficiency and athletic prowess have NBA scouts drooling. Halfway through the season, Zion is atop the draft board and most teams tanking want to have a shot at him.
The Tennessee Volunteers are a complete college basketball team and are early season favorites to earn back-to-back regular season SEC titles. Tennessee is experienced and tough at every position. Rick Barnes has a pair of frontcourt bruisers in Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams who are dominating forces that can beat you in the post or from deep. Since their lone loss that came in overtime to then #2 Kansas in the NIT Season Tip-Off, in which Williams fouled out, Tennessee has won six consecutive games, including victories over Gonzaga, Memphis, and Wake Forest. The Volunteers have climbed to #3 in the country. After defeating then #1 Gonzaga, a game in which Schofield tallied 30 points and corralled six rebounds, the senior said that his main reason for coming back to school was to become one of Barnes’ favorite players that he ever coached. That’s what college basketball is about. Schofield is averaging 18.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Although Williams, the reigning SEC Player of the Year that is averaging team-highs of 16.6 points and 8.5 boards, may get all the postseason honors, Schofield is the heart of this team that has its eyes set on something bigger than just a conference title.
With only one game, at Utah, left on their non-conference schedule, the Nevada Wolfpack are 12-0 and could be flirting with entering the NCAA Tournament as a one-seed with an undefeated record. Road conference games are always tough in any league, but this could be a bad year for the Mountain West which makes the prospect of an unblemished record for Nevada more reasonable. The Wolfpack have risen to #6 in the nation with wins over BYU, Tulsa, UMass, Loyola-Chicago, USC, then #20 Arizona State, Grand Canyon, and South Dakota State. Caleb Martin and Jordan Caroline are leading the team in scoring with 18.8 points per contest apiece. Martin and Caroline also average 5.6 and 9.6 rebounds per game, respectively. Caleb’s twin brother Cody facilitates the offense and has an assist to turnover rate of 3.2:1. Last year, Eric Musselman’s team played Cinderella. This season, Nevada has a target on their back and are poised to make a run even further than they did a year ago.
Florida State Seminoles
After a surprise run to the Elite Eight, the Florida State Seminoles carried that momentum into the 2018-19 season and are off to an 11-1 start, with their lone loss coming against Villanova in the championship game of the Advocare Invitational in November. Florida State has wins over Florida, Tulane, UAB, then #19 LSU, then #19 Purdue, UConn, and St. Louis. With their leading returning scorer, Phil Cofer, missing the first nine games of the season, the Seminoles haven’t skipped a beat and sit at #9 in the AP Poll. Terance Mann leads the Seminoles in scoring and rebounding with 12.3 points and 6.8 boards per contest. Florida State may not be getting the attention it deserves with Duke, Virginia, and North Carolina looming at the top of the ACC, but don’t be surprised to see the Seminoles near the top of the conference standings when all is said and done.
Surprises: Texas Tech and Ohio State
These four teams were all expected to be good, but two surprise teams thus far are Texas Tech and Ohio State. The Red Raiders and the Buckeyes were surprise teams a year ago and Chris Beard and Chris Holtmann have their teams shocking the college basketball world yet again in 2018-19.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
After making it to the Elite eight a season ago, Texas Tech lost their leading scorer Keenan Evans to graduation and second leading scorer, freshman, Zhaire Smith to the NBA Draft. Their top returning scorer, Jarrett Culver, is the key reason why the Red Raiders are #11 in the country. Culver is averaging 19.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.5 assists. Texas Tech has wins over USC, Nebraska, and Memphis and barely lost to Duke at Madison Square Garden a week ago. The Red Raiders have hopes of ending Kansas’ streak of 14 consecutive Big Twelve regular season titles.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State lost do-everything big man Keita Bates-Diop to the NBA Draft and was picked to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten entering this season. The Buckeyes are now 11-1 and have wins over Cincinnati, Creighton, Minnesota, Illinois, and UCLA—with their lone loss coming to Syracuse in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in November. Kaleb Wesson is averaging 16.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game to lead Ohio State.
If one thing is for certain it’s that Texas Tech and Ohio State were underrated two years in a row and that Beard and Holtmann are two budding stars in the college basketball coaching circle.
After going 2-0 to start off the season, the Syracuse Orange dropped both games in the 2K Empire Classic at Madison Square Garden last week.
Syracuse fell to former Big East rival, UConn, 83-76 in Thursday night’s first round matchup. The Huskies jumped on the Orange right away and got out to a 13-4 lead. UConn’s defensive pressure had Syracuse’s freshman point guard Jalen Carey noticeably rattled in the early going, but Carey responded and helped pull the Orange to within six at the break. Syracuse rallied to within four (70-66), but back-to-back threes by Alterique Gilbert and Tyler Polley helped UConn pull away and preserve the victory.
Coach Boeheim was disappointed with his team’s effort against the Huskies. Boeheim pointed to his team’s lack of consistency on the offensive end and questioned his team’s hustle, specifically in regards to the rebounding disparity. UConn outrebounded Syracuse 46-32. The key for the Huskies was their efficiency from three. UConn shot a blistering 57.1-percent (12-of-21) from distance. The Orange, however, connected on just 6-of-22 (27.3-percent) of their attempts from beyond the arc.
Jalen Carey paced the Orange with a career-high 26 points, on 9-of-14 from the field, and seven rebounds. Tyus Battle finished with 16 points, on 7-of-17 shooting, and four assists. Elijah Hughes added 15 points on 5-of-14 from the floor. Oshae Brissett scored nine points and corralled five rebounds, but struggled from the floor, shooting only 3-for-12.
Fifteenth ranked Syracuse was joined in Friday’s consolation game by the thirteenth ranked Oregon Ducks, who lost in the first round to Iowa, 77-69. The Orange had no answer for five-star recruit Bol Bol, who completely dominated the interior. The big man stuffed the stat sheet with 26 points, nine boards, four blocks, and three steals as the Ducks won 80-65. Syracuse suffered from another dreadful shooting performance as they shot just 35.3-percent from the field, including 17.9-percent from three point land. Oregon shot 50-percent from the field and 35-percent from long range in the victory. In a game where the shots weren’t falling, Syracuse also failed to take care of the ball. The Ducks forced Syracuse into 17 turnovers. The Ducks also outrebounded the Orange 35-28.
Syracuse was led by Battle who tallied 17 points in the losing effort. Hughes and Carey scored 14 points apiece and came away with five and three steals, respectively. Brissett struggled from the field for a second consecutive night. The sophomore forward scored 11 points on 2-of-12 from the field and 1-of-9 from three, grabbed six boards, and dished out four assists.
The showing in the Garden showed that Syracuse has a ton of work to do if they are going to live up to the preseason hype they generated in the offseason. The Orange are in desperate need of efficient shooting and an experienced point guard to lead the offense. Frank Howard practiced last week, but was in street clothes on the bench at the 2K Classic. Syracuse faces Colgate this Wednesday, but would hope to have Howard back in the lineup when they face Ohio State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on November 28.
Although it is easy to identify Syracuse’s offensive inefficiencies, the defense gave up 80 points in back-to-back games for the first time since February of 2017. It will be interesting to see if Coach Boeheim reverts back to the lineup that got the Orange to the Sweet Sixteen a year ago to string together some stops when Howard returns to health.
The Iowa Hawkeyes took home the 2K Empire Classic trophy with a 91-72 victory over UConn in Friday’s championship game. Luka Garza (Iowa) was awarded MVP honors, while Tyler Cook (Iowa), Eric Cobb (UConn), Bol, and Carey joined him on the All-Tournament team.
Player of the Week: Jalen Carey
Aside from the first few minutes of the UConn game, Jalen Carey was the clear bright spot for Syracuse in New York City. The freshman from Harlem looked to be right at home on the big stage as he averaged 20 points, on 54.2-percent shooting, and five rebounds in two games last week. Carey only turned the ball over three times after the first half against the Huskies. The diaper-dandy was able to create his own shot, but only finished with one assist in the two games in the 2K Empire Classic. His performance earned him a spot on the All-Tournament team and ACC Freshman of the Week accolades. With Howard’s return, Carey’s performance could have us see more of a three guard lineup from the Orange.
Up Next: Colgate Raiders
Syracuse will look to get back on track when they return to the Carrier Dome to host Colgate on Wednesday at 7pm. Jordan Burns leads the Raiders, who are off to a 3-1 start. The sophomore guard is averaging 18 points and five assists per contest. Last year, the Orange defeated the Raiders 72-58.
Syracuse tipped off its 2018-19 campaign with victories over Eastern Washington and Morehead State last week. As opposed to last season, there is a renewed buzz around the program heading into Coach Boeheim’s 43rd season on SU Hill. The Orange return all five starters from a team that advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in March. In addition, Syracuse brings in a class of newcomers that are ready to make an impact right away.
Our first glimpse of the Orange came Tuesday night when they took down the Eastern Washington Eagles 66-34 in the Carrier Dome. Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone held Eastern Washington to a mere 10 points in the first half and made it tough for the Eagles to get back in the game the rest of the way. The zone held Eastern Washington to 22-percent shooting and forced the Eagles into 19 turnovers. The key reason for the hype surrounding the Orange this year was a hope that greater depth and better shooters would bolster their offensive attack this season. Syracuse shot just 38.7-percent from the field and 17.6-percent from three on opening night. The Orange were paced by Oshae Brissett’s 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 steals in the victory.
Syracuse returned to the Carrier Dome on Saturday evening when they defeated the Morehead State Eagles 84-70 in the second game of the season. The Orange jumped out to an early 25-11 lead before Morehead State outscored them 19-11 to close the half. Clinging to a six point lead at the break, Syracuse traded baskets with the Eagles to begin the second stanza. The Orange pulled away with a 12-0 run to create a deficit that would be insurmountable for Morehead State to comeback from. Syracuse was more successful the second time out, as they connected on 41.2-percent of their attempts from the field. The Orange continued to struggle from beyond the arc as they were only 3-of-16 (18.8-percent) Saturday night. Tyus Battle led the way for Syracuse. The junior guard poured in 23 points on 7-of-15 shooting, collected three rebounds, and dished out three assists in the win. East Carolina transfer Elijah Hughes finished with 21 points, on 7-of-15 from the field, and eight boards. Brissett and senior center Paschal Chukwu both notched double-doubles as Brissett tallied 17 points and collected 12 rebounds, while Chukwu added 14 points and 10 boards. Coach Boeheim commented that the first two games were good learning experiences and that they gave his guys a lot to work on moving forward.
The missing ingredient at this point in the season is production from the point guard position. Frank Howard, Jalen Carey, and Howard Washington are all still recovering from injuries that have caused Battle to play out of position and Buddy Boeheim to step into a starting role in the first two games of his college career. The Orange turned the ball over 24 times in their first two games and would prefer to have their senior leader, Howard, back sooner rather than later. Carey has not adjusted to the college game yet and missed valuable practice time after spraining his ankle in the Orange vs. White scrimmage in October. Washington played seven minutes in the opener against Eastern Washington, but did not see action against Morehead State on Saturday. Washington is recovering from a torn ACL which he suffered in practice in January.
I would like to see Marek Dolezaj get more involved offensively. The do-everything Slovakian forward showed glimpses of what he can be on the offensive end with 20 points against Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament and 17 points versus TCU in the NCAA Tournament his freshman year. Dolezaj is arguably the best passer on the roster, but he needs to make opponents respect his shooting ability. Dolezaj has made all four of his attempts from the field so far this season, but only took one shot (a dunk) against Morehead State. He made only two three pointers last season, but made one against Eastern Washington. It is rumored that he has been working on his stroke from three and it would be a tremendous lift for the Orange if we could see that in games. Get Dolezaj the ball!
Player of the Week: Oshae Brissett
This week’s player of the week for Syracuse is sophomore forward Oshae Brissett. Brissett is averaging a double-double with 18.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, good for the team lead in both categories. He also leads the team in steals with 2.5 thefts per contest. If Brissett is the best player on the Orange, there is no telling where the team can go this season. Although he missed a few layups Saturday night, Brissett is at his best when he takes it to the hoop. Add in a few more three pointers and Brissett will be among the class of the ACC.
Up next: UConn and Oregon/Iowa
Syracuse will face UConn in the 2K Empire Classic Thursday at Madison Square Garden Thursday at 7pm. The Orange will take on either the winner or loser of Oregon/Iowa Friday night in the championship or consolation game.
The UConn Huskies are 2-0 under first year head coach Dan Hurley. UConn is led by senior guard Jalen Adams who is averaging 18 points and 2.5 assists per game. The Huskies are looking to rebound from Kevin Ollie’s final year in Storrs where they went 14-18 overall and finished eighth in the American Athletic Conference with a record of 7-11. Last year, the Orange defeated the Huskies 72-63 at MSG. If one thing for sure, Syracuse versus UConn at the Garden is always a hotly contested matchup and is one of the most electric scenes in college basketball.
Oregon enters the 2K Empire Classic with a record of 2-0 and is ranked 13th in the country. The Ducks are led by five-star freshman Bol Bol who is averaging 17.5 points, 12 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per contest.
Fran McCaffery’s Iowa Hawkeyes will enter the Garden with a record of 2-0. The Hawkeyes are led by junior forward Tyler Cook who is averaging 14.5 points, seven boards, and three assists per game.
The Orange will head to Madison Square Garden determined to remain undefeated and bring a trophy back to the Melo Center.
Syracuse Survives and Advances in ACC Tournament First Round Win over Wake Forest
The motto in March is “survive and advance” and Syracuse did exactly that with a 73-64 victory over Wake Forest in the First Round of the ACC Tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY Tuesday night.
The Orange used an 11-0 run early in the second half, capped by a layup by Paschal Chukwu, to take a 19 point lead with 8:16 remaining, but the Demon Deacons cut Syracuse’s lead to 62-56 on a made free throw by Brandon Childress with 1:58 left. The Orange used back-to-back alley-oop dunks by Chukwu and seven successful free throw attempts down the stretch to come away with the win.
Syracuse jumped out to a 20-4 lead on a layup by Chukwu with 11:44 to go in the opening stanza. Wake Forest responded by outscoring the Orange 20-10 over the remainder of the first half and Syracuse took a 30-24 lead into the break.
The Orange shot 54.8% from the field and held the Demon Deacons to just 35.9% shooting. Syracuse outrebounded Wake Forest, 34-30.
Wake Forest was led by Bryant Crawford’s 22 points and 6 assists.
All five starters scored in double figures for the Orange for the first time this season. Syracuse was led by Marek Dolezaj who poured in a career-high 20 points and grabbed 4 rebounds. Tyus Battle scored 18 points and corralled 6 rebounds before fouling out. Chukwu played well on the inside finishing with 14 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Frank Howard added 11 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals. Oshae Brissett tallied 10 points and collected 9 rebounds.
Jim Boeheim commented on his team’s performance in his postgame press conference. “The first we had a lot of good looks and just couldn’t make anything,” Boeheim said. “I thought the second half we attacked the zone. I thought Frank did a great job, Marek was tremendous getting into the open spots. He has been looking to score better over the last part of the year. I thought our defense was the difference. They’re [Wake Forest] a very, very good offensive team. They made fourteen threes in Syracuse the last time we played and I thought we did a much better job guarding them on the three-point line. It was a really good win.”
With the win, the Orange improved to 20-12, while Wake Forest finished their season with an 11-20 record.
Syracuse will need to rest and get set to take on North Carolina in the second round of the ACC Tournament Wednesday night at 9:30pm. The two teams met two weeks ago when the Tar Heels pulled out a 78-74 victory in the Carrier Dome. North Carolina is led by their two All-ACC First Team selections Joel Berry II and Luke Maye.