A quick take on Syracuse’s strong second half in its 85-67 win against Long Beach State, a Sunday matinee in front of a nice crowd of 22,508 at the Dome:
WHAT HAPPENED: Syracuse (8-4) ended the first half with a bang on route to winning a game of back-and-forth streaks by both teams until the final 10:00. Michael Gbinije’s deflection of an inbound pass to Trevor Cooney resulted in a near half court three-point basket to end the first half with SU up four, and the ‘Cuse cruised from there with strong defense and the trio of Gbinije, Cooney and Rakeem Christmas dominate offensively with a combined 64 points.
ANALYSIS: It’s less than six days until conference play gets underway, and it’s clear that the play of the zone defense will be an integral part of how this team fares in the ACC. The Orange scored off 14 Long Beach State (5-9) turnovers and in transition, shooting nearly 58%. When the Orange turns up the defensive pressure at different lengths on the court it can create havoc, and it helped blow open a tight game early in the second half.
HERO: The versatility of junior swingman Gbinije has been one of the biggest developments of the first two months of the season, and never more evident than in Sunday’s win. He was the game’s co-high scorer with a career high 24 points, along with six boards and eight assists, and had the great hustle to deflect the ball to Cooney for the highlight three point bomb to end first half.
ZERO: The continued need for some offensive production from the “4” spot from both Chris McCullough and Tyler Roberson to back up the big three scorers Christmas, Cooney and Gbinije. Roberson did contribute some solid minutes on Sunday with six points and three rebounds, McCullough had seven points and two rebounds, but certainly has not been a big offensive option in the last month.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse plays its final non-ACC game on New Year’s Eve, Wed., Dec. 31 against longtime upstate foe Cornell. The Big Red are 6-5 and hosting Saint Peter’s Sunday afternoon (4:00 p.m. ET). SU has won 35 straight in the series, the last Cornell victory coming on Dec. 4, 1968 in Ithaca. Game Time: 6:00 p.m. ET / TV: ESPNU.