Syracuse stymies Eastern Washington in season opener

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Oshae Brissett dunks during the second half of Syracuse's win over Eastern Washington. Photo Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports.

While the game certainly was not pretty, the end result was satisfying, as #16 Syracuse dominated Eastern Washington at the Carrier Dome, 66-34, in the opener for both teams. The 2-3 zone defense of the Orange was simply overwhelming, as the Eagles could only muster ten points in the opening half. The second half was not much better for the guests, who ended the night shooting only 22 percent from the field.

The dominant defensive performance helped overshadow a spotty offensive game by SU, save for the performance of Oshae Brissett. The sophomore forward was aggressive throughout the game, posting game highs of 20 points and eight rebounds. In fact, nearly five minutes into the second half, Brissett was outscoring EWU by himself, 18-13.

The rest of Brissett’s teammates, particularly the guards, mostly struggled. Tyus Battle, Buddy Boeheim, Jalen Carey, and Elijah Hughes combined to shoot 8-for-35 (22.9 percent) from the floor, including 1-of-10 from three-point range. Fortunately, the Syracuse defense covered up those shooting woes, forcing 19 turnovers that transformed into 33 points.

Both teams struggled on offense in the opening minutes, but the Orange were first to get things going. Three straight possessions resulting in field goals turned a tie game into an 11-5 lead just over five minutes into the game.

Eastern Washington responded with a free throw and a basket in the next minute to halve the gap, but that bucket was their last dent on the scoreboard for almost ten minutes.

In the meantime, SU was not terribly proficient on offense, either, scoring just a dozen points. In fact, Marek Dolezaj was the only player to score in nearly an eight-minute span. The sophomore drained a jumper from the elbow, then tacked on a three-point shot to boost the Syracuse lead to eight. Most of note was that Dolezaj showed no signs of hesitation, immediately taking advantage of open looks at the basket.

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After Jalen Carey added a three-point play to push the lead into double digits, Oshae Brissett turned a steal in the full-court press into a reverse two-handed slam, then buried a triple from the right wing to make it a 23-8 lead. The Eagles ended their scoreless streak, but the Orange added on the final five points of the first half for a 28-10 lead at intermission.

SU needed less than five minutes of the second half to leave only the final score in doubt, asserting their advantages in both size and athleticism with their full court press. The result was a 20-3 run coming out of the locker room, capped by 15 straight points.

Brissett was the driving force of that time, scoring eight points and handing out an assist. The forward scored off a putback, then made a steal in the press and fed Buddy Boeheim for a three-point play. Brissett followed that with a dunk.

After Elijah Hughes had a three-point play of his own and Paschal Chukwu cleaned up a miss at the rim with a lay-in, Brissett turned another steal into a dunk, then dropped in a lay-up while slicing to the bucket. When the dust settled, Syracuse held a 48-13 lead.

The game was choppy the rest of the way with both teams in the bonus with almost 11 minutes left. The only Orange scholarship player not to see action was Frank Howard, who is still recovering from a leg injury. Head coach Jim Boeheim offered no postgame update on the point guard, who did some shooting prior to the contest.

While Oshae Brissett was the only SU player to reach double figures in scoring, five other players finished with seven or eight points. Tyus Battle and Bourama Sidibe each had eight while Jalen Carey, Marek Dolezaj, and Elijah Hughes chipped in with seven points apiece. Brissett and Hughes each had three steals.

Syracuse returns to the hardwood on Saturday when they welcome Morehead State to the Carrier Dome. The Eagles (1-0) opened their season by defeating NAIA opponent, Kentucky Christian, 102-82, and will play at Connecticut on Thursday evening prior to matching up with the Orange.

Tip-off is set for 7:00pm Eastern and the game will be available online at ESPN3.com.

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Jim Stechschulte
About Jim Stechschulte 511 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.