Men's basketball cruises to NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals

The Syracuse men's basketball team knocks off Albany, 98-74, to advance to the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off.

Kris Joseph led the No. 5 Syracuse to a 98-74 rout of the Albany Great Danes (1-2) Tuesday at the Carrier Dome. Joseph led the Orange (3-0) with 19 points in a game featuring a high-powered and determined Syracuse offense. With the win, the team moves on to the semifinals of Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden.

Photo: Peter Caty
Kris Joseph led the No. 5 Syracuse to a 98-74 win over Albany Tuesday night.

It was a slow start for Syracuse, who began the game with some turnovers and missed shots and trailed by four points in the first two minutes. The Orange soon found its offensive rhythm, though, thanks to a pair of back-to-back three-point plays by Joseph.

Three minutes into the game, he kicked off his scoring with a three-point play off an Albany foul and then hit a three-point shot during the next possession. He finished the night 2-of-4 from behind the arc and 8-of-14 from the field.

Albany was able to stay with Syracuse due to the shooting of guard Logan Aronhalt and forward Gerardo Suero. Together, Aronhalt and Suero scored 51 of Albany’s 74 points.

“[Suero] is an aggressive player,” said Orange head coach Jim Boeheim. “Him and Aronhalt are really good shooters.”

It wasn’t long before Syracuse began to pick up the pace offensively. Junior forward James Southerland began a career night with 14 points in a seven-minute span to give the Orange a substantial lead against the Great Danes. Southerland finished the night with 19 points and five rebounds.

“Our team was struggling a little bit offensively,” Southerland said. “So I went in there and gave them a little spark and since then everything was rolling.”

That spark ignited an SU offense that would not be stopped. After Southerland’s 14-point run, sophomore guard Dion Waiters scored six of his eight points in the final three minutes of the first half to end it with Syracuse up, 51-34.

“Once we started to have shots fall, everyone started to be consistent,” Southerland said. “And that consistency rubbed off on everyone.”

The Orange big men also came through on the offensive boards. Syracuse accumulated 28 first-half rebounds to Albany’s 13. By final buzzer, SU grabbed 50 rebounds to Albany’s 29. 

“Our big guys were active tonight,” Boeheim said, simply.

Orange sophomore center Baye Moussa Keita also had a career night, finishing the game with 14 points and five rebounds. His dominant performance came mostly in the second half, beginning with a fantastic block and then back-to-back layups.

“Baye [Moussa Keita] was really good,” Boeheim said. “He’s playing with good guards that can get him the ball.”

The team displayed its depth against Albany -- it was the third game in a row where 10 or more players scored for the Orange. The game also saw impressive scoring off the bench, with 49 of Syracuse's 98 points coming the reserves.

“We have guys who can score in different ways,” Joseph said of the team's depth. “When we have reserves like that it really helps us.”

And Syracuse seemed to find its offensive rhythm in the second half, Boeheim was still critical of his team’s performance.

“The reason you play these games is to play better,” he said. “And tonight we didn’t get better.”

Even when a team scores 98 points, there is room for improvement. And while Syracuse seemed lethargic in the opening minutes, the Orange proved they can be contenders by pouring on the points and picking up the offensive rebounds. The continued performance of the bench also gives Syracuse more firepower going forward.
Syracuse gets a break before playing Colgate (1-0) on Saturday at 4 p.m. The squad will then head to Madison Square Garden in New York City to play Virginia Tech (3-0) in the Tip-Off semifinals. 



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