Hot-shooting Syracuse hands Wake Forest embarrassing loss

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Wake Forest struggled to score against Syracuse

Saturday afternoon, Syracuse started their three-game road trip with their best performance since they were in the Bahamas for Thanksgiving, routing Wake Forest, 83-55. The Orange (12-7, 2-4 ACC) jumped out to a double-digit lead in less than eight minutes and never allowed the Demon Deacons (10-7, 1-4) to get within single figures again. In fact, SU led by 25 points or more for a greater portion of the game than they did by single digits.

Trevor Cooney blitzed the hosts with 11 points in the first four minutes and change, setting the tone for the game. Syracuse shot just under 50 percent in the opening half, including hitting 7-of-14 threes in that frame. Meanwhile, the Orange defense was stifling, permitted Wake to connect on only a third of their shots in the first session and 32.6 percent overall. SU was particularly stingy on three-pointers, as the Deacons made only 2-of-20 from beyond the arc in the game.

In spite of their difficulties rebounding on the season and having multiple big men mired in foul trouble, Syracuse finished plus-eight in the boards. The Orange corralled 16 offensive rebounds and cashed in those extra opportunities for 20 points.

Trevor Cooney started the game on fire for SU, hitting his first four shots. First, Cooney hit two threes off the right wing, then added one from the left wing. Cooney then returned to the right wing, making a leaning jumper off a shot fake that gave Syracuse an 11-4 lead with less than four minutes off the clock.

After the two teams traded scores over the next several minutes, the Orange delivered a roundhouse that blew the game open. SU held the Demon Deacons without a field goal for four minutes and lit them up badly on the other end, ripping off a 14-1 run.

» Related: Analysis of Syracuse’s win over Wake Forest

Malachi Richardson made a free throw to start the run, then Cooney swished a three off the left wing. Following a Wake Forest free throw, Tyler Lydon set up DaJuan Coleman on the doorstep for an easy score. Cooney dropped in a pair of free throws, then set up Lydon, who drilled a left corner three. On the next trip down, Cooney finished the burst with a three curling off a screen on the left wing, his fifth trey of the first ten minutes, to give Syracuse a 30-11 lead.

The Orange offense then went on ice, not scoring a basket in over six minutes. The Demon Deacons could not take advantage, however, and when Coleman broke the slump inside, the SU lead was still 35-19.

Syracuse would then close the half strong by scoring six points in just over a minute. Lydon struck first, flushing home a two-hander off a nice pass from Cooney. Richardson drove the right baseline for a basket, then Gbinije added a pair from the stripe for a 47-27 lead. The Orange could have cracked 50 in the first half, but Frank Howard’s last second three-pointer went off the heel of the rim.

Wake shaved a few points off the lead in the opening minutes of the second half, but SU struck back with three straight scores. Roberson first connected from 18 feet, then converted a missed three for four quick points. Gbinije drove and hammered home an emphatic dunk for a 57-34 lead with just over five minutes off the clock.

A few minutes later, Syracuse effectively ended the game. With a 22-point lead in hand, Cooney connected a long three-pointer from the right side, then Howard slipped a pass to Gbinije in transition, who found a wide-open lane for a slam. Gbinije then returned the favor, hitting Howard with a bounce pass for a trey. Gbiinje wrapped the burst by jumping the passing lane for a steal, then went the distance for a tomahawk dunk and a 73-41 lead with over eight minutes remaining.

The Orange would nudge the margin to 33 points at one time and coasted to the win from there.

Trevor Cooney scored 19 of his 25 points in the first half for SU, hitting 6-of-9 from the floor in that time, including 5-of-7 threes. Tyler Roberson had his second straight double-double, piling up 16 points and 13 rebounds, including seven boards on the offensive end. Roberson actually fell two rebounds shy of a double-double in the second half alone. Michael Gbinije added 15 points while Tyler Lydon hit three triples for most of his 11 points.

Doral Moore was the lone Wake Forest player to muster double figures in scoring with ten points. Devin Thomas had nine points and 13 rebounds for Wake, while Mitchell Wilbekin added seven points.

The Orange continue their trip with another stop in North Carolina on Monday night, as they will face #9 Duke. The Blue Devils (14-4, 3-2) have dropped their last two contests, falling at Clemson on Wednesday and getting edged at home on Saturday by Notre Dame, 95-91. Like SU, the Devils play a tight rotation, normally employing six players with big man Amile Jefferson shelved indefinitely due to injury.

Grayson Allen leads four different Duke players who average double-digits in scoring at 20.2 points per game, while Brandon Ingram averages 16.8 points per game. The Blue Devils will be a tough task for the SU zone, as all four of those double-digit scorers have made at least 26 three-pointers on the season.

Tip-off on Monday night is set for 7:00pm Eastern with ESPN handling the telecast, which can also be seen online at espn3.com and through the WatchESPN app.

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Jim Stechschulte

About Jim Stechschulte

A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade, where he currently resides. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. Follow him on Twitter @DSafetyGuy.
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