Syracuse loses again as it plods towards conference play

Davonta Jordan Buffalo Bulls
Dec 19, 2018; Syracuse, NY, USA; Buffalo Bulls guard Davonta Jordan (4) dribbles up court during the second half of the Bulls' 71-59 win over Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Photo Credit: Initra Marilyn, The Juice Online.

Tuesday night against #14 Buffalo, Syracuse folded in the final dozen minutes of play, turning a 48-42 lead into a disappointing 71-59 home loss. Elijah Hughes hit a three to boost the Orange lead to six, but the Bulls responded with eight straight points and SU would never lead again.

In that time, Syracuse missed their final ten three-pointers and had a span of nearly five minutes without a field goal starting with just over six minutes to play. Buffalo took advantage, posting nine points to just a pair of Orange foul shots to push their lead out to 67-57 with just over two minutes on the clock. The victory pushed the Bulls to 11-0 on the season and SU slid to 7-4.

Syracuse shot just 27.6 percent from the field in the second half, including an ice-cold 1-of-12 in the last six minutes of the contest. The Orange also got soundly beaten on the glass, losing the battle of the boards, 48-35, which included a 29-17 margin in the second half. Buffalo snared ten offensive rebounds in the second half and converted them into ten points.

Things looked promising for SU in the opening minutes as they took a 4-0 lead and eventually stretched it to 9-4 when Bourama Sidibe converted a pick-and-roll into a three-point play just over six minutes into the contest. The Bulls came back to knot the score.

Syracuse then ran off seven unanswered points to start an 11-2 run. Oshae Brissett gathered an airball and tossed it in to start the run. Frank Howard hit a three-ball as the trail man in transition and Brissett added a fadeaway jumper from beyond the left elbow.

Following a pair of Buffalo free throws, Brissett scored on a reverse circus shot to cap an aggressive baseline drive and Tyus Battle powered home a one-handed fast break dunk for a 20-11 lead just past the midpoint of the opening session.

The Bulls replied with an 8-2 streak to get within three, setting up the squads to trade markers. Buffalo would slice the lead down to a single point on three different occasions, but Howard swished a three from the left side just before halftime to give the Orange a 36-32 edge at the break.

» Related: What can Syracuse do to get back on track?

The two squads traded blows in the opening minutes of the second half, but SU maintained control, pushing the lead to a half dozen points three different times. The last time the margin was six points, the Bulls backed a lay-up with a pair of triples for eight straight points and a 50-48 lead.

Jalen Carey drove for a lay-up to knot the score, but C.J. Massinburg buried a three for a 53-50 Buffalo edge. Brissett set up Battle for a trail three in transition to knot the score once more with just over eight minutes remaining.

The Bulls trampled Syracuse from there, closing the game on an 18-6 run. Buffalo got a lay-up and a transition three-point play to go up by five, but Brissett answered with a jumper. The Bulls got a foul shot, but Battle responded with a pair to bring SU within 59-57.

The guests scored the game’s next eight points for the first double-digit lead of the night at 67-57 with just over two minutes to go. Battle drove for a lay-up and the Orange forced a turnover to breathe life into the home partisans, but Battle and Brissett both missed threes on the ensuing possession and Buffalo knocked down two sets of free throws in the following 15 seconds, closing out the scoring.

While the Orange got balanced scoring, no single player had a strong all-around effort. Elijah Hughes led the team with 16 points, but turned the ball over a half dozen times. Frank Howard hit a trio of treys as he scored 13, but had just one assist and three turnovers. Tyus Battle was silent most of the night, but finished with 11 points. Oshae Brissett had ten points and 12 rebounds, but missed all three of his free throws, including a pair with the team down seven and under 2:30 to go.

C.J. Massinburg was as advertised for Buffalo, pouring in 19 of his game-high 25 points in the second half. Jeremy Harris added 18 points and Davonta Jordan had ten. Nick Perkins came off the bench to post a ten-point, 12-rebound double-double for the Bulls.

The Orange return to action on Saturday when Arkansas State visits the Carrier Dome. The Red Wolves (5-6) will bring a modest two-game win streak with them.

Ty Cockfield is the biggest threat for Arkansas State, leading the team with 21.3 points per game and hitting just under 44 percent of his three point shots on the season. The 6’0” guard has topped the 30-point plateau twice. Five other players average between seven and ten points per game for the Red Wolves.

Saturday’s contest will get underway at 2:00pm Eastern. The game will be televised on regional sports networks and will be available online at ESPN3.com and through the ESPN app.

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Jim Stechschulte
About Jim Stechschulte 531 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.