3 takeaways from Syracuse’s 71-57 win against Niagara

first_img Published on December 28, 2019 at 9:15 pm Contact Andrew: [email protected] | @CraneAndrew Greg Paulus lunged back and forth over the sideline, urging his man-to-man defense to trace its Syracuse assignment. The second half neared its midway point, and Brycen Goodine circled through the paint toward the left wing.“Stay with him, Justin,” Paulus yelled to Justin Roberts, his point guard. Bourama Sidibe cut up to the elbow, and Paulus crouched. Goodine had pulled away from Roberts and had an open look.It rimmed out, and Paulus rose in anticipation as the Purple Eagles raced in transition, another chance to cut into an SU lead that inched closer and closer to a blowout. But Elijah Hughes blocked the ensuing shot, settling the SU defense.For most of Saturday night’s game, that was the flow: Whenever it seemed Niagara had a chance, SU found a way to suffocate the opportunity. Sixteen SU turnovers were negated by a low Purple Eagle shooting percentage, allowing Syracuse to stave off a second-half comeback en route to a 71-57 victory against Niagara to close nonconference play on a three-game winning streak. Saturday’s win marked another lower-tier opponent the Orange struggled to put away and even blowout.Here are three takeaways from the Orange’s win.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textExploitable interior weaknessNick MacDonald corralled the ball in front of the Syracuse bench and eyed up a 3-pointer. To that point in the first half, the Purple Eagles hadn’t hit a long ball. They found success inside the Orange’s 2-3 zone — specifically on Marek Dolezaj and Sidibe’s side — but continued to search for a rhythm outside the arc.MacDonald’s shot bounced out and he shook his head down the court. Possessions later, he perched on the wing again and shot two more. Both missed. The first half ended in a 2-for-12 shooting percentage from behind the arc for Niagara, and an 11-for-20 clip from inside.The Purple Eagles didn’t have a size advantage — their tallest starter was 6-foot-9 and included four players under 6-foot-3, but drives to the block often ended in made layups. Twenty-two points in the paint during the first allowed Niagara to stay within striking distance of the Orange.But that wasn’t the offensive route the Purple Eagles wanted, until the second half. With under eight minutes remaining, MacDonald stopped in the left corner and drained a 3. Minutes later, Roberts hit a 3 from the wing to pull the Purple Eagles within 11, and clapped his hands. But five straight-points from Joe Girard III extinguished the newfound success from behind the arc.A balance that works?As the Purple Eagles continued to launch shots from beyond the arc in search of an offensive spark, Syracuse settled into a balance that worked for the third-straight game. Buddy Boeheim opened and closed a 10-0 SU run to start the game with 3-pointers that sandwiched two interior buckets for the Orange, including a Dolezaj offensive rebound and put-back.Hughes finished the first half with seven assists and the game with nine, even getting slim minutes as the point guard. He flipped a no-look pass to Buddy on the game’s first possession and followed that up with a thread to Sidibe down low from outside the arc — which resulted in a slam dunk.It marked a continuation of the Orange game flow that didn’t revolve around the 3 ball. Against North Florida, it was Dolezaj that became the Orange’s interior facilitator, finding openings for outside looks from his spot at the elbow. But against Niagara’s man defense, the role went to Hughes and allowed him to near a triple-double. He finished the night with 19 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.Using their sizeEven though the Purple Eagles found success when the ball got to the blocks, it was the entrance pass the SU zone contained. Greg Kuakumensah patrolled the elbows, popping his hands out and waiting for a pass from point guards Justin Roberts and James Towns. But most times, those passes never arrived because of SU deflections and — in six cases — steals.Dolezaj and Girard pushed up top on the left side, forcing time off the shot clock and not allowing the Purple Eagles to set up an offensive rotation. That, in turn, forced the Purple Eagles to rely on 3-pointers when lanes inside the paint closed. The other half of the Orange’s defensive prowess was defined by three first half blocks by Sidibe.With a distinct size advantage, SU found ways to snag rebounds without firm box-outs and earn blocks despite late closeouts. The Orange finished with 11 blocks on the night and a 46-33 rebounding advantage. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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