Men's Basketball

Syracuse overcomes usual deficiencies to cruise past Alcorn State 57-36

Ziniu Chen | Staff Photographer

C.J. Fair shoots a jumper in the first half of Syracuse's 57-36 victory over Alcorn State.

The cold streak began innocently enough. Syracuse was doubling Alcorn State’s score, 32-16. But the all too-familiar problems that have shown themselves in this young season dotted a painful stretch for fans and players.

Free throws clanked. Passes went awry. Even Michael Carter-Williams, one of the nation’s top point guards, went cold enough to be pulled.

“It was pretty frustrating,” senior guard Brandon Triche said. “… I think sometimes we want to get a quick shot, sometimes we rush a little bit. And then when we rush we still don’t get a good shot.”

Still the Orange (11-1) pulled itself together to rebound from its first loss of the season and beat the Braves (2-13) 57-36 in front of 19,365 in the Carrier Dome.

While the Orange largely outclassed its lowly opponent, the free-throw shooting struggles continued, SU was lukewarm at best on the perimeter, and the team is now just one game away from Big East play in hardly convincing form.

SU went without a field goal for 8:34 to start the second half, and were it not for sharpshooting guard Trevor Cooney, it could’ve lasted longer. The period epitomized the current problems of this SU team.

More than seven minutes into the cold spell, C.J. Fair stole the ball and passed the ball to Triche. The guard pushed it up the bench-side sideline to an open James Southerland on the break. SU’s leading scorer pulled up and his shot clanked out.

The botched play eventually led to ASU pulling to within seven with 12:17 left in the game.

Ultimately, strong SU defense, too many turnovers from Alcorn State and widespread foul trouble helped the Orange cruise to its eighth 20-plus point win of the season. Still, with an off shooting night the offense inspired little confidence, underscoring the Orange’s reliance on outside play.

“Our perimeter guys have got to play well. That’s how we won against San Diego State, that’s how we won against Arkansas,” head coach Jim Boeheim said. “If we have our perimeter guys play well then everything can work off that. Our big guys aren’t yet ready offensively that are going to win games for us.”

And in a game in which Triche and Carter-Williams collectively coughed up eight turnovers, SU destined itself for an uninspiring night. As one would expect against another all-around smaller team, the Orange worked the inside better than usual. Thirty-two of SU’s 57 points were scored in the paint, or 56 percent of all Orange scoring. From 3-point range, SU shot just 3-of-15.

Yet the effort to pound the interior also reproduced the now-infectious free-throw struggles. The team was 12-of-28 from the line, but 14 of those shots were taken by DaJuan Coleman and Jerami Grant. The former went 2-of-7, the latter 3-of-7.

The number of free throws taken was impressive, the conversion rate was not.

“I don’t feel like it was on purpose,” Grant said when asked if ASU intentionally sent SU to the line. “Their defense was just that bad.”

And in the most nerve-racking stretch of the game, SU was 4-of-8 from the line.

“They’re the two probably biggest guys and they were getting the ball and were getting fouled so they were active anyway,” Boeheim said. “That’s a good thing, but you can’t continue to miss half your free throws or close to it. That’s something that is a concern.”

If not for Cooney’s timely spark and some stifling defensive work, the Orange might’ve seen out an even less comfortable game.

On the game-turning play, a C.J. Fair steal was the trigger. On Alcorn State’s next possession SU doubly assured the crowd that SU was back to suffocating possessions and making shots.

After Cooney batted a pass away from ASU’s Anthony Evans, Baye Moussa Keita picked the ball up and gave it to Triche. The senior guard then dished to Cooney at the point, who then deferred back to the upperclassman on the left wing. Triche passed down to Southerland who whipped the ball from the baseline up to Fair midway up the left side of the paint. It was two-handed bunny dunk time. Fair knew it, and he made sure everyone else in the building did, too. The Orange led 41-29.

SU iced away the rest of the game. Carter-Williams returned, Cooney gave SU the range and dribble penetration it lacked for much of the game and Alcorn State could do little but foul, watch and turnover.

Still, flaws were exposed and re-exposed. And so the Orange’s second-to-last nonconference game of the year goes down ingloriously.

Said Cooney: “It wasn’t the most fun game to play in.”

  • icanewfriend

    Too many patsies on our schedule. Monmouth made us feel like world-beaters. A better Detroit team brought us back to earth and a really good Temple squad sealed the deal and made us question if we were good enough to win without having to compete. Answer: NOBODY is that good.

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