Syracuse basketball: Huge second-half run sparks Orange in blowout win

Despite poor shooting, the Orange cruised past Adrian in its final tuneup game.

As the second half began and the announced 7,680 fans rose to their feet, No. 23 Syracuse was nursing an unexpectedly low 13-point lead over D-III Adrian. Still, it was right on the doorstep of breaking the game open 

Twelve minutes later, it had busted the door off its hinges. 

Behind an impressive 23-0 run to begin the latter period, the Orange rolled to an easy 84-35 victory over the Bulldogs at the Carrier Dome on Monday night in its final exhibition contest of the preseason. 

Photo: Bryan Cereijo
Senior Syracuse player Rakeem Christmas (#25) makes a shot on Adrian.

Five SU players finished 10 or more points despite an ugly first half in which the team shot a dismal 29.3 percent from the floor. 

“We had a couple open looks, and we didn’t make them in the first half,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said. “We missed a lot of layups. Second half, we were much better… just made some more shots.” 

The Orange peppered the undersized Adrian forwards around the rim through the first 20 minutes, but missed a number of lay-ups and floaters within the paint. 

However, it was able to maintain a comfortable lead by cashing in second-chance opportunities. Chris McCullough and Rakeem Christmas crashed the boards for a combined 10 offensive rebounds. 

“Coach told me to go to the boards, be aggressive, outrebound, play defense well,” McCullough said. “Coach has been telling us all day in practice about going to get the ball and fight for rebounds, so that’s what we did.” 

SU fared no better from beyond the arc, as guard Trevor Cooney misfired on three attempts. The redshirt-senior continued his early-season slump, converting only two of nine shots from deep. 

As a team, the Orange shot below 30 percent. 

“When you make some, it definitely helps to actually boost your confidence,” Cooney said. “I know I can make shots, and I’m gonna shoot ‘em. I know when I shoot well, we’re a better team.” 

The Orange entered the break with a 37-24 advantage, but the floodgates opened soon after. 

Highlighted by thunderous dunks from McCullough and sophomore Ron Patterson, the offense found its stroke. B.J. Johnson and Michael Gbinije hit a couple of jumpers and ultimately provided 17 points off the bench. 

Meanwhile, Adrian struggled to penetrate the Orange’s famous zone in the latter frame. The Bulldogs failed to score a basket until 7:03 remained, as they stared down a 37-point deficit. 

Syracuse outrebounded Adrian 48-34 and forced 29 turnovers. 

Surprisingly quiet was SU point guard Kaleb Joseph, who attempted only seven field goals but did pull down six rebounds and dish out four assists in his second game. 

Boeheim said he would like to see Joseph be more aggressive and take his shot when it opens up, but the freshman said the Orange’s size advantage down low presented an opportunity to showcase his court vision. 

If the Orange needs him to attack the basket against Kennesaw State on Friday night, Joseph said he’ll be ready. 

“I felt like tonight, I didn’t need to score in order for us to be successful,” Joseph said. “I saw it as an opportunity to get my guys shots. We didn’t force many shots at all. 

“Moving forward, I will always be aggressive.”

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