A quick take on Syracuse’s 70-48 win over Eastern Michigan in front of a mostly sleepy 20,306 inside the Carrier Dome on New Year’s Eve to close out the non-conference schedule:
WHAT HAPPENED: Syracuse built an early 20 point lead in the first half and the game looked on schedule to be a rout similar to the 84-48 result the last two times these teams met. But the Orange defense became lackadaisical in the final five minutes of the opening half, and Eastern Michigan cut the lead to single digits at intermission. The Eagles would come as close as 37-32 with 17:59 left, but Syracuse would respond immediately with a 7-0 run to retake a double-digit lead and SU wasn’t seriously threatened the rest of the afternoon.
ANALYSIS: Syracuse easily won the battle of the zones, holding the Eagles to just 31 percent shooting from the field, and a respectable 7-28 from downtown. For the third straight year, the Eagles could only muster 48 points. On the other side, SU’s offense was nonplussed against Rob Murphy’s version of the zone that featured former Orange center Da’Shonte Riley (the last remaining link to the 2009-10 team that had Arinze Onuaku, Wes Johnson and Andy Rautins). The Orange was able to use its superior size and athleticism inside to get several easy lobs and layups, while Tyler Ennis played another mostly mistake-free game with several nifty no-look passes.
HERO: Ennis continues to show his maturity beyond his years, and committed an uncharacteristic 2 turnovers, but was otherwise steady, tying a career-high 9 assists. Several of those assists were to Rakeem Christmas, who scored 15. Jerami Grant, starting in place of an injured DaJuan Coleman (knee) started quickly and faded late, but still finished with 15 points and 8 rebounds. Eastern Michigan’s Glenn Bryant shot 8-11 from the field and led all scorers with 19 points.
ZERO: Though Syracuse shot the ball well from inside the arc (51 percent), the Orange struggled again from downtown (3-14) and the free throw line (15-25). Through 13 games, the Orange have shot the ball well in stretches from the charity stripe, having one of its best runs in program history out in Maui, and following that up with a sterling performance against Villanova (29-35). But there have been other games, like Tuesday, when SU has struggled. It’s an old time bugaboo that will be worth paying attention to in conference play. Meanwhile, EMU guard Darell Combs had a horrible shooting night (1-9) and was whistled for an intentional foul midway through the second half, essentially tackling Grant near the hoop.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse will play its first ever ACC conference game when it hosts Miami at the Carrier Dome on Saturday, Jan. 4 at 2 p.m. TV: ACC Network.