It took waiting into the second half of their seventh game of the season, but Syracuse finally got some effective three-point shooting. Of course, #17 Michigan simply had more of it, burying eight second-half three-point shots en route to a 68-65 win over the Orange in Ann Arbor.
Trevor Cooney, who entered the game with nine three-pointers on the season for SU (5-2), hit four in the second half against the Wolverines (6-1), but it was not enough to overcome a ten-point deficit in the game’s final seven minutes. The Orange knotted the score with a minute left, but never could take the lead.
Despite trailing the overall rebounding battle, 36-31, Michigan collected 17 offensive boards, many coming off their 22 missed three-point attempts. The Wolverines’ converted those rebounds into 17 second chance points, which helped offset Syracuse’s 50 percent shooting from the field, including a 13-for-23 (56.5 percent) second half effort. SU’s strong shooting was undone by their 19 turnovers in the game (which led to 20 Michigan points), especially in light of the 2-3 zone defense forcing only seven UM errors.
On their second possession of the night, the Orange opened the scoring with a triple from Kaleb Joseph then, Trevor Cooney fed Rakeem Christmas for an easy dunk and a 5-0 lead on their next trip down. Meanwhile, the Syracuse defense played well out of the gate, forcing Michigan to miss their first seven shots.
Michigan then got their offense going, making three straight shots, then adding a fourth after an offensive rebound for a 9-0 run and a four-point lead.
With Christmas on the bench with a pair of quick fouls, the SU offense picked up the slack, ending their own streak of seven straight misses with a Tyler Roberson lay-up. Michael Gbinije then finished a lefty drive with a three-point play that capped a 7-0 run that put Syracuse up, 12-9, with little more than eight minutes off the clock.
The teams traded consecutive scores with Michigan posting the feat twice to the Orange’s once. Chris McCullough buried a 17-footer to give SU an 18-17 lead, but the Wolverines got a three to go up by a deuce. Christmas erased that lead with a putback, but a UM jumper put them up by two again.
Syracuse responded with a quick 8-3 run capped by Joseph’s second three of the half for a 28-25 lead with just over two minutes left in the half. Michigan responded with a pair of baskets, but Christmas closed the half with a three-point play that sent the Orange to the locker room with a 31-29 lead.
The two teams alternated scores coming out of the break or, to be more specific, Cooney alternated scores with Michigan coming out of the break. Cooney sank a pair of free throws, then buried threes on consecutive trips, the latter putting SU in front, 39-37. The Wolverines grabbed control of the game at that time with a pair of triples and a pair of charity shots for a six-point lead just over five minutes into the half.
McCullough and Christmas both scored in the paint to stop the bleeding for Syracuse, but another UM trey put the hosts back up by five. After a Syracuse basket, Michigan went for an early finish, ripping off a 10-3 run and seizing their biggest lead of the night at 58-48 with just over seven minutes on the clock.
SU clawed back in it, scoring the game’s next six points, including another Cooney three, this one making it a four-point game. After UM got another three, Gbinije fed Cooney for an NBA-range three off the left wing, then McCullough tipped home a Joseph miss to make it 61-59 in favor of the Wolverines with three minutes to go.
Michigan got a tap-in, but Cooney fed McCullough for a lay-in off a pick-and-roll, then Gbinije drove and dropped the ball off for Christmas to finish. The basket made it a tie game with a minute on the clock.
A long Michigan three put the hosts back on top, but Gbinije banked in a short runner in the lane to make it 66-65 with 20 seconds left.
Coming out of a time out, Syracuse fouled twice to send the Wolverines to the line. McCullough collected the miss, but his quick outlet pass was in between Joseph and Gbinije, giving the ball back to UM.
Again, SU fouled and, again, McCullough collected the missed free throw. This time, however, Joseph dribbled out of control, lost the ball, and was forced to foul. And, this time, Michigan got both free throws to drop to take a 68-65 lead with 4.5 seconds left.
The Orange inbounded and advanced the ball to the frontcourt before a Michigan foul. Inbounding again, Syracuse tried to get the ball to Cooney for a tying three, but he was covered. The pass went to Joseph and his long three fell short, giving the Wolverines the win.
Four Syracuse players scored in double figures, led by Trevor Cooney’s season-high 16 points, including 14 after intermission. Rakeem Christmas continued his hot shooting on the season, knocking down 7-of-9 shots from the field en route to 15 points, 11 of them in the first half. Chris McCullough logged his second straight double-double and third of the season, finishing with ten points and a dozen rebounds. Michael Gbinije turned in probably his best game of the season off the bench, finishing with ten points, five rebounds, three asissts, and a pair of steals.
Michigan spread the wealth around on offense, getting five players into double digits. Zak Irvin paced the Wolverines with 18 points, including four treys, while Ricky Doyle and Caris LeVert each added 12. Spike Albrecht had 11 points and nine assists, while Kameron Chatman chipped in with ten points.
On Saturday, the Orange will re-unite with old Big East mate St. John’s at the Carrier Dome. The Red Storm are off to a 5-1 start on the season with the only loss coming last week to #10 Gonzaga. Four different players average double figures in scoring for St. John’s, paced by D’Angelo Harrison (17.5 pts/game) and Rysheed Jordan (16.0 pts/game). Center Chris Obekpa is a force on the interior, averaging 3.8 blocks per contest.
The matchup will get underway at 5:15pm Eastern on ESPN2, as well as online at ESPN3.com.