Men's Basketball

Syracuse generates 20 turnovers, holds Drexel to 60 points in 15-point win

Max Mimaroglu | Staff Photographer

Syracuse’s defense stepped up in the second half behind four blocks from Jesse Edwards and five steals from Cole Swider.

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Drexel’s Camren Wynter lost control of the ball as Syracuse was up by eight points in the second half, allowing Cole Swider to scoop it up on the left side of the floor. The Villanova transfer dribbled down the court, and instead of passing to Joe Girard III for a 3-pointer, Swider went toward the basket. Wynter stuck his hand in for a steal, but Swider stepped away from him for a layup, giving SU its largest lead of the game.

The steal was one of five which Swider recorded against Drexel, a career-high for the forward who just transferred from the Wildcats in March. He said it’s been a “smooth transition” playing in SU’s 2-3 zone, and that showed on Sunday. The Orange created 20 turnovers, including four blocks from Jesse Edwards and 15 team steals, to shut down the Dragons’ offense in the second half, holding them to just 27 points in a 75-60 win in the Carrier Dome.

“We picked it up in the second half,” Girard said. “Our defense tightened up a little bit, we got out to shooters better and got some hands-on some balls.”

After easily getting past Lafayette in a season-opening win on Tuesday, Syracuse faced a tougher challenge from Drexel on Sunday. The Dragons scored 103 points in their first game against Neumann and were coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance last season.

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Drexel hit seven 3-pointers in the first half, fueled by strong ball movement that created openings on the perimeter. The Dragons hit just 41.2% of their attempts from beyond the arc in the first half but missed several easy shots that could’ve made their halftime lead one larger if they had connected on more shots.

Mate Okros led the Dragons with three early 3-point shots, including two open looks that came off broken plays from Syracuse’s defense being out of position. Then, a 3-pointer from Melik Martin as part of a 10-0 Dragons’ run late in the first half forced Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim to call a timeout.

Boeheim said that SU changed its defensive rotations at halftime, but that switch was something the Orange “should’ve done sooner.” He, along with his sons Buddy and Jimmy Boeheim, got on the team at halftime about increasing the defensive intensity, Swider said. The result was a “different type of energy” in the second half, Swider said, that resulted in more deflections, blocks and turnovers.

“Coach told us at halftime we needed to start ramping up the defense a little bit,” Girard said. “I was missing some shooters, we were all missing some shooters on the defensive end so it was just about getting to shooters and getting hands-on (balls) and getting deflections.”

Edwards’ four blocks and SU’s 15 steals keyed a strong start in the second half — one that featured a 16-6 run at the start by the Orange. After Edwards denied a pass that Drexel tried to get into the high post, Jimmy hit a right-handed floater in the paint to give Syracuse a seven-point lead. Moments later, after Jimmy converted on another layup, Martin tried to drive inside, but Edwards blocked the ball out of bounds. Edwards finished with eight points and four rebounds in 21 minutes of action.

“Jesse and Frank (Anselem) were good in terms of the defensive end and offensive end,” Boeheim said. “They changed some shots. I thought they were really strong.”
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Edwards said Syracuse made the adjustment of moving up its guards and wings in the second half to get out at Drexel’s shooters, leaving Edwards with more space to cover defensively. The Dragons were unable to find the same success shooting from beyond the arc in the second half, going just 3-for-10.

Drexel’s big men rarely went to the basket to shoot when they received the ball in the high post — part of the gap between the guards and the center in the 2-3 zone that teams typically attack. Edwards said he adjusted by staying back and giving the frontcourt players more room, which allowed Syracuse’s guards to push up toward the perimeter and limit 3-point attempts.

“We just covered better (in the second half),” Boeheim said. “They were using the high post to pass to the shooters and in the first half we allowed that and in the second half we were there.”

With fewer 3-pointers from Drexel and an increased number of steals and blocks in the second half, Syracuse gained fastbreak opportunities. The Orange recorded 15 fast break points compared to only four by the Dragons. That success gave shooters like Girard and Buddy more opportunities to find open chances that didn’t come against a set, half-court defense. Buddy led SU with 23 points, hitting three 3-pointers.

Then, with less than five minutes to go in the second half, Wynter drove between Swider and Symir Torrence on the right side, and Benny Williams was forced to make a play. The 5-star true freshman played only 16 minutes on Sunday but recorded the highlight of the game by rotating from the far side to swat Wynter’s attempt into the stands with his right hand. It was the finale of the five-block performance by the Orange that fueled a second-half outburst and helped Syracuse to a comfortable home win.

“I kind of messed up there and Benny was there to have my back,” Swider said. “Playing with great players like Jesse and Benny and guys who really have length and athleticism, you can mess up sometimes and they’ll be there to block it.”







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