Ryan MacCammon | Staff PhotographerMen's Basketball
CALM SEAS: Behind strong 2nd half, Syracuse coasts to 2-0 with 88-57 win in home opener against Wagner
No. 8 Syracuse 88, Wagner 57
Syracuse teased Wagner in the first half.
The Orange’s shots clanked off the rim, spoiling good looks at the basket. Syracuse’s misses let the Seahawks stay close, giving them false hope that they could stay competitive for the duration of the game. That hope didn’t last long.
The Orange (2-0) broke the game open in the second half, shooting 19-of-28 from the field to cruise to an 88-57 win over Wagner in the Carrier Dome on Sunday in front of 17,273 fans. Brandon Triche continued to assert his role as the floor leader for Syracuse with 21 points, but Michael Carter-Williams sliced Wagner’s defense to create open looks for his teammates.
The sophomore finished with 11 assists, eight of them coming in the second half. He dished the ball off effectively and SU’s offense clicked because of it.
“I thought he really played like a point guard today,” head coach Jim Boeheim said. “He really got the ball to people. I thought he did a really good job of that, finding people. He had 11 assists, he probably could’ve had 15 or 16 if we made a couple jump shots there.”
Syracuse shot just 36.1 percent in the first half. Boeheim said his team’s offense was “in and out.” Its jump shots were off the mark and Wagner handcuffed the Orange down low to contest what could’ve been easy layups. But mostly, it was the outside shots where SU struggled the most. Syracuse was just 1-of-10 from beyond the arc.
The Orange took a 36-23 lead into the break, but it could’ve been closer if Wagner shot better than a paltry 25 percent from the field. The Seahawks also sent Syracuse to the line 14 times, where it hit nine of those free throws.
Against a team that fell to Delaware State in its season opener, Syracuse’s first half was a surprise.
“I think we started getting our rhythm in the second half. We started to play Syracuse basketball,” Carter-Williams said. “I think a lot of games are going to be like that when we don’t play well in the first half. We’ve just got to play better in the second half.”
Carter-Williams took on the role of playmaker for the entire second half.
He found a wide-open C.J. Fair in the right corner less than a minute into the half, and Fair hit the 3-pointer to put Syracuse up 16. About two minutes later, he stole the ball from Wagner’s Kenneth Ortiz, then raced down the court to convert a fast-break layup that gave Syracuse a 45-26 lead.
“Mike definitely ran the show in the second half,” forward James Southerland said. “Michael Carter-Williams did a good job of adjusting to the pressure in the second half. He did a good job of finding plays for his teammates, he got us open shots.”
Carter-Williams also helped create some crowd-dazzling plays. Four minutes into the second half, he lofted a pass to Rakeem Christmas for an alley-oop. Christmas slammed the ball through the hoop to put Syracuse up 48-29.
Everyone on the SU bench rose to their feet and applauded the play that seemingly put a stamp on the game for the Orange.
“I was just trying to get other players involved,” Carter-Williams said. “That’s my role on this team, is to get everyone involved and to get everyone open shots.”
He even had a dunk of his own at the 13:21 mark. After Seahawks guard Latif Rivers lost the ball, SU guard Trevor Cooney picked it up and dished to Carter-Williams for a fast break slam that made it 54-31 Syracuse.
Carter-Williams fed Southerland all through the second half for both shots from the outside and precision passes for dunks. Carter-Williams assisted Southerland on all seven of his second-half points.
The sophomore point guard created plays and powered Syracuse’s offense after halftime. The Orange shot nearly 68 percent in the second half, and Carter-Williams was seemingly responsible for all of it.
“He’s one of the best guards in the country. He showed it today,” Cooney said. “He not only was able to get to the basket and finish, but he was also able to find open shots for us. He’s able to do that, and when he does that, it only makes us so much better.”
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