It's good to be back

Syracuse used a big second half to run away from upset-minded Northern Iowa in its season opener Friday night.

There were no glass slippers or carriage rides home Friday night for the University of Northern Iowa. The Panthers, one of last season’s Cinderella stories, ran out of magic against Syracuse as they fell to the Orange, 68-46.

Syracuse shrugged off a slow start and exploded for 45 points in the second half to pull away from the pesky Panthers. The Orange were led by Kris Joseph and Rick Jackson who each chipped in 14 points. Freshman Dion Waiters also scored in double figures for Syracuse as he chipped in 10 ­– seven of which came in the first half.

"The team is going to need me to step up at certain points, and I think this was the kind of game where they needed me to do that. We only scored 23 in the first half, and coming out I just had to refocus." -Kris Joseph

“He was really key in the first half,” said SU head coach Jim Boeheim. “We were really struggling and were going behind and he made a couple real big shots. I think in the second half he was really good. He didn’t get assists, but he got the pass that … made a play.”

After blowing out LeMoyne College in its final exhibition game, Syracuse struggled from the floor early. The Orange missed eight of their first nine field goal attempts en route to a woeful 32 percent shooting mark in the first half.

Despite the slow start, the Panthers were unable to capitalize. The visitors missed nine of their first 10 shots, and turned the ball over three times during that span. Midway through the first half though, Northern Iowa had a three point lead on Orange following a pull-up jumper by Kwadzo Ahelegbe.

On the ensuing possession, sophomore James Sutherland tied the game up and ignited the SU offense when he connected from deep. Shortly thereafter, the Orange would regain the lead, and it was a lead they would never relinquish.

“The first half, everybody was nervous,” Waiters said. “The second half, coach talked to us about staying poised, catch and shoot and play defense.”

As rough as the first half was to watch for 22,198 Orange-clad fans, the second half was a thing of beauty. Joseph connected on a 3-pointer to open the period, and spark a 13-1 run by the Orange. When the Panthers finally connected on their first field goal of the period, SU held a commanding 15 point lead.

“It was definitely us,” Joseph said when asked what caused Northern Iowa’s shooting woes. “No team is that patient, that they’ll take every shot with two seconds on the clock. I think we did a good job of rotating and getting out to their shooters.”

Joseph lead the Orange charge in the second half, as he scored 13 of his 14 points in the final stanza.

“I took on a new roll,” he said. “The team is going to need me to step up at certain points, and I think this was the kind of game where they needed me to do that. We only scored 23 in the first half, and coming out I just had to refocus.

“The first half was in the past for me, and I wanted to start fresh. I think coming out and hitting that 3 really go myself going and my team going.”

As the game progressed, things went from bad to worse for the visiting Panthers. Syracuse continued to build on its lead as the Orange shot a scorching 65 percent from the floor in the second half. Meanwhile, Northern Iowa struggled to a miserable 27 percent for the game.

The Orange face a short turnaround as they hit the hardwood again Sunday when they host Canisius. Tipoff for that game is scheduled for 3 p.m.

“Going into this game we knew it would be tough,” Joseph said. “They do a good job defensively, they’re well coached and they show a lot of patience on offense. Winning by that many points definitely helps our confidence a little bit.”

Freshman Baye Moussa Keita throws up a shot against visiting Northern Iowa Friday night.  (Photo: Aaron Katchen)

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