Men's basketball: Orange defense stifles Loyola in easy victory

SU dominates in the paint en route to its best defensive performance in almost two years.

Syracuse pulled away to its fourth win of the season Tuesday night, defeating Loyola (Maryland), 70-37, at the Carrier Dome.

Although the 47-point victory might suggest the Orange’s offensive struggles are in the rearview mirror, head coach Jim Boeheim said that’s far from the truth.

"I thought our defense was good. That's it," Boeheim said. "Obviously, we have a long way to go on offense." 

Photo: Leonard Christopher
Rakeem Christmas (No. 25) attempts to pump up his teammates from the SU bench.

The Orange (4-1) struggled to get outside shots to fall in the first half. SU missed all seven of its attempts from behind the three-point line. 

Though the Orange held Loyola (2-3) scoreless during the first 10 minutes of the game, the Greyhounds crashed the boards for 10 offensive rebounds. They were able to convert enough of those second-chance opportunities to stay within reasonable range of the Orange. 

Syracuse led by only 12 points at halftime, with the score reading 28-16. 

In the second half, SU attacked the basket more consistently. The offense relied on its bigs, freshman Chris McCullough and senior Rakeem Christmas, to clean up around the basket. The two finished with 17 and 18 points, respectively. 

The pair combined for 35 of SU’s 42 points in the paint. 

Christmas drew contact inside and visited the foul line on six different occasions. 

"Coach wants me to be strong," Christmas said. "When I get the ball, just spin on people, and that's what I gotta keep doing." 

The six-foot-nine-inch senior had an impressive game on the other end of the court, tying a career-high with six blocked shots. 

"I always go for the block," Christmas said. "I try to stay on top of the guards when they come down low." 

Freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph said he likes having Christmas as a "security net" on defense. 

"When guys break through the gaps in our zone, it's good to know he's always down there," Joseph said. "He holds down the fort." 

Joseph finished with eight points and seven assists. 

Sharpshooter Trevor Cooney struggled from beyond the arc, but went four of eight from the field and tallied 13 points. 

The Greyhounds’ 37 points are the fewest allowed by Syracuse since Marquette mustered only 39 during the 2013 NCAA Tournament. 

Meanwhile, Boeheim said the team’s overall offensive chemistry is still a work in progress. 

Starting forward Tyler Roberson sat out Tuesday night's game due to an abdominal strain. He is expected to return soon and give the Orange an extra boost. 

"This team just needs time," Boeheim said. 

The Orange will be back in the Dome on Friday at 7 p.m. to take on Holy Cross.

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