SU Basketball: Syracuse vs UCONN at MSG

Syracuse men's basketball struggles offensively in loss to UConn

SU grabs an 11-point second half lead but fails to hold on in 52-50 defeat at Madison Square Garden

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team built an 11-point lead in the second half but squandered it against its former Big East rival UConn, and the Huskies escaped with a two-point victory in front of 15,347 fans at Madison Square Garden on Monday night.

UConn has struggled after losing three players for the season because of injuries but managed to get the job done this time.

Photo: Bryan Cereijo

“This is definitely a huge win for us,” said senior Rodney Purvis, who led the Huskies in scoring. “We had some early season struggles but to come together tonight in this atmosphere, in this historic place. It was huge for us to come out with the win.”’

Blanks Over Broadway

After a sluggish finish in the Orange’s 77-71 win against North Florida on Saturday afternoon, Syracuse came out ice cold against the Huskies. Guard Tyus Battle hit a three with less than a minute gone by, but the Orange proceeded to go the next five and a half minutes without a field goal, until Tyler Roberson’s layup with 13:46 left in the first half.

“Our offense is horrendous,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “We’ve got to get better there. If we don’t we’re going to struggle every game.”

The Orange struggled to score the entire night, shooting a dreadful 23 percent from the field (6-26) in the first half, and 28 percent (8-28) in the 2nd half. Despite the offensive woes, Syracuse big man DaJuan Coleman’s layup at the buzzer gave the Orange a two-point lead going into halftime.

Losing Leads

After a Coleman layup extended Syracuse’s lead to seven, 31-24, with 17:07 to go in the game, both teams went ice cold again, with neither scoring for almost three minutes. An Andrew White III three gave the Orange its biggest lead of the night at 11, with 13:10 left to go.

The Huskies began to claw back with the help of their seniors, Kentan Facey (7 points, 13 rebounds), and Purvis (21 points, 7 rebounds).  Facey’s layup with 8:06 left cut the Orange’s lead to four.

After a missed layup by Battle, the Huskies came back the other way, and Purvis drilled a three, giving UConn its first lead of the 2nd half, 45-44, with 6:18 to go. Purvis then found Huskies’ sophomore guard Jalen Adams for the trifecta, giving UConn a five-point lead with just under three minutes left. Adams scored 16 for UConn.

Syracuse went more than six and a half minutes without scoring.

With the Orange trailing by three, 49-46, White failed to tie the game, missing from deep on two straight possessions. But, the graduate transfer from Nebraska capitalized on his third chance, nailing a three with nine seconds to go, tying the game at 50.

Vital Possession

UConn quickly inbounded the basketball, and after a Purvis miss from behind the arc, Huskies’ guard Christian Vital got the rebound and was fouled on the put back with 2.2 seconds to go. The freshman, a New York City native, had missed all six of his field goal attempts, but he stepped to the stripe and knocked down both free throws, sealing the comeback win for the Huskies.

“He’s one of the toughest players we got,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said. “For him to get that offensive rebound, and shoot two free throws. He knocked them down like he was a fifth-year senior.”

Center Stage

After getting called out by his coach last weekend following Syracuse’s first loss of the season against South Carolina, Coleman looked like a different player against the Huskies. The redshirt senior clearly got his coach’s message, pulling down 16 rebounds (career-high) to go along with 10 points.

Looking Ahead

The Orange (5-3) heads back to Syracuse and will host Boston University at the Carrier Dome this Saturday at noon. As for the Huskies (4-4), they will travel to Columbus to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday at 6 p.m.

Editor's note: This story originally appeared on the Newhouse Sports Media Center 

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