Securing the perimeter, Syracuse holds off Wake Forest to advance

Tyus Battle
Syracuse Orange guard Tyus Battle (25) reacts with forward Marek Dolezaj (21) and forward Oshae Brissett (11) and guard Frank Howard (23) against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during the first half of a first round game of the 2018 ACC tournament at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

It took until the ACC Tournament, but Syracuse got their first game of the season with all five starters in double figures in scoring, propelling them to a 73-64 win over Wake Forest. The Orange (20-12) shot just under 55 percent from the field, including sticking two-thirds of their shots in the second half, as they went post-to-post for the win.

SU got almost everything they wanted inside the arc, making 19-of-25 (76 percent) of their two-point shots. Marek Dolezaj and Paschal Chukwu did a lot of that damage, each going 6-of-7 from the field. That slick shooting helped Syracuse survive 18 turnovers on the night.

The Orange defense stifled the Demon Deacons (11-20) from long range in the game. Wake had shot over 45 percent from three-point range in two regular season matchups with SU, burying 19 triples combined in those games, but mustered only a 6-for-29 (20.7 percent) performance. The Deacons shot 1-of-13 from long range in the first half and missed five straight triple tries in the second half as Syracuse pulled away.

The Orange offense clicked early as they raced out to a 20-4 lead just over eight minutes into the game. All five starters scored in the first six minutes and the squad closed the sizzling start with an 11-0 run. Tyus Battle, who scored the game’s first basket, added seven points in that closing kick, including a steal that he converted into a slam and a three-point-play on the next possession.

» Related: The case for Syracuse’s Tyus Battle being a First Team All-ACC selection

Shortly after the midpoint of the half, the SU offense went ice cold, mustering only a foul shot in a six-minute span. Wake Forest took advantage, piling up a baker’s dozen of points, including a 9-0 run that brought them back into the game at 26-22. Syracuse held a 30-24 lead at the break.

The Orange also posted a run to start the second half, this one an 8-2 advantage to take a double-digit lead again. Marek Dolezaj started the scoring with a three-point-play off a dunk, then matched two Wake foul shots. Frank Howard then capped the burst with a three-point-play off a leaner inside the foul line to give SU a 38-26 lead.

Syracuse kept the Deacons at bay for a few minutes, then blew the game open with 11 straight points. Howard stuck a three from the left corner, then Paschal Chukwu turned a loose ball into a lay-up. Howard picked up another loose ball and started a break, which he ended with a no-look shovel pass to Oshae Brissett for an emphatic two-handed dunk. Howard then set up Dolezaj for a dunk and Chukwu capped the run with a lay-up for the biggest lead of the night at 56-37 with just over eight minutes to play.

As they did in the first half, the Orange offense went into a slump. This time, the field goal drought lasted over six-and-a-half minutes. Wake Forest took advantage, posting their own 11-0 run as they pulled within 62-56 with just under two minutes to play.

Battle killed clock on the ensuing possession, then tossed an alley-oop to Chukwu. After two Wake free throws, Dolezaj capped an escape from the press with his own alley-oop to Chukwu for a 66-58 lead. The Deacons could not convert on a pair of shots and Brissett rebounded, drawing a foul. The freshman added two foul shots for a ten-point lead with just over a minute on the clock.

Wake Forest continued to foul, but could not score enough to get closer then nine points the rest of the way.

Marek Dolezak led Syracuse with a career-high 20 points, complementing his 6-of-7 shooting from the field with an 8-for-10 mark at the foul line. Tyus Battle scored 12 of his 18 points in the first half. Paschal Chukwu (14 points) and Oshae Brissett (ten points) each fell a single rebound shy of a double-double, with the former adding three blocked shots. Frank Howard chipped in with 11 points.

Bryant Crawford paced the Demon Deacons with 22 points on the night. Brandon Mitchell was the only other Wake Forest player in double figures, adding 11 points. Chaundee Brown and Doral Moore each posted seven points.

By virtue of their victory, SU advances to the second round of the ACC Tournament to face #12 North Carolina. The Tar Heels (22-9), who own the sixth seed, defeated the Orange on Wednesday, February 21 at the Carrier Dome in their sole matchup of the season, 78-74. Syracuse rallied to tie the game late after trailing by a dozen points on three separate occasions, but could not score in the game’s final three minutes.

Tyus Battle and Frank Howard combined to score 49 points in the game, including 35 after halftime. Oshae Brissett posted a double-double of 17 points and ten rebounds to aid the Orange cause.

Carolina’s Theo Pinson rolled up 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field while also amassing seven assists and six rebounds. Joel Berry II backed him with 18 points, powered by his four three-pointers.

The second round game is scheduled for a 9:00pm Eastern start from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on Wednesday, but will likely tip-off a little later than that, as it will follow the Virginia Tech-Notre Dame game that starts at 7:00pm Eastern. ESPN2 will handle the television duties and that telecast will also be available at ESPN3.com.

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Jim Stechschulte
About Jim Stechschulte 500 Articles
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.