Tuesday night, for the third time in their first four ACC games, #2 Syracuse took on a former Big East opponent and, for the third time in those four games, emerged victorious, beating Boston College on the road, 69-59. However, it was not an easy win for the Orange (17-0, 4-0 ACC), as they closed the game on a 25-9 run, powered by a stretch of over 11 minutes where they held the Eagles (5-12, 1-3) without a field goal.
That strong defensive play was desperately needed, as BC made half of their shots in the first half and eight of their first 15 three-point tries. In fact, the hosts had their most trouble shooting at the free throw line, making only 16-of-26 (61.5 percent) from there. SU, in contrast, hit 17 of their 21 foul shots (81 percent).
While it was riddled by three-pointers for a large portion of the game, the Syracuse defense did force 16 turnovers on the night. The majority of those (13 of 16) were steals, led by six by Tyler Ennis.
After BC opened the scoring with a deuce, the Orange struck back with eight of the next ten points of the contest for an early 8-4 lead. A three-pointer broke the run for the Eagles, but Trevor Cooney hit a three and added three of four free throws to provide most of the punch in an 8-1 run that placed SU out front by a 16-8 margin less than eight minutes into the action.
The Eagles roared back, though, knocking down three triples, including a pair from well beyond the line, as part of an 11-2 run to grab a 19-18 lead before the under-eight media timeout.
Shortly after that, Syracuse made their move. The Orange rolled out a 13-2 run and Cooney was a one-man highlight film in the middle of it. Cooney tracked down a lead pass following an Ennis steal and stuffed the ball through the rim, then turned a pair of his own steals into breakaway dunks, the latter finishing the run with 2:30 before halftime and SU on top, 32-23.
Boston College got a three to stop the bleeding and end a span of nearly six minutes without a field goal, then a pair of free throws to pull within four. A soft putback pulled the Eagles within 32-30, forcing Jim Boeheim to pull the trigger on a time out.
The strategy session did not work, however, as Syracuse turned the ball over. The miscue did not result in any additional harm, though, as a BC three clunked off the back iron at the horn and the Orange held that two-point lead at the break.
Ennis dropped in a wide-open three to open second session, but Boston College connected on three bombs of their own in the next two minutes as part of a 10-2 run to grab a 40-37 lead and force Boeheim to call a timeout with less than three elapsed.
As with their last timeout, the Orange turned the ball over coming out the stoppage and BC continued to pile on, converting an airball into a three-point play on the rebound. After yet another SU turnover, the Eagles converted with a slam, taking their biggest lead of the night at 45-37 and drawing another Boeheim time out.
This time, C.J. Fair stopped the momentum by banking in a short jumper for the Orange. The Eagles came back with a bucket of their own, but Ennis drove for a lay-up, then drained a three of a screen to pull Syracuse within 47-44. BC retaliated with a three of their own to reinstate a six-point lead heading into the under-12 media timeout. That would turn out to be their last field goal for a long time.
Fair started off things for the Orange by swishing a mid-range jumper. Grant came up with a loose ball and jammed it through the rim, then Cooney did the same, only he made a contested lay-up. After a badly missed BC three, SU raced out and eventually scored when Grant banged home a putback and tacked on the free throw. The 9-1 run, mostly borne from hustle, gave Syracuse a 53-51 with less than eight minutes on the clock.
Fair extended the run with another bucket, then Cooney added a baseline floater and a three fading away to make it 14 straight points for SU and a 60-51 lead. Two Boston College charity shots stopped the run, but Grant skied to emphatically throw down a rebound dunk to put the Orange back in charge by nine.
Two BC freebies pulled them within seven with under 2:30 left and another one pulled them within 62-56 with 1:44 to go. Syracuse milked the clock, then Grant pulled down an offensive rebound and was fouled. Grant cashed in both shots at the line, pushing the SU lead to eight.
The Eagles again failed at the line, getting only one of two with 1:01 showing on the clock. The Orange were able to break the Boston College press and Fair was fouled with 50.9 seconds to play. Fair connected on both to make it 66-57.
Following a quick BC dunk, Michael Gbinije could only make one at the line. Baye Moussa Keita blocked an Eagle shot and Ennis came up with the loose ball. Two free throws later, SU held their first double figure lead at 69-59 with just under 35 seconds on the clock. Boston College did not connect on their next shot and opted to call off the dogs and permit the clock to elapse.
Trevor Cooney had a big night for the Orange, dropping in 21 points on 8-of-13 shots from the floor. Jerami Grant scored 11 of his 16 points in the second half and had a game-high eight rebounds. Tyler Ennis and C.J. Fair each added a dozen points. In addition to Ennis’ half dozen thefts, Cooney and Fair each came up with three.
Lonnie Jackson paced Boston College with 18 points, all coming from deep as he buried 6-of-9 three point shots. Ryan Anderson backed him up with 14 points, but made only 6-of-13 shots at the stripe. Olivier Hanlon chipped in with 13 points.
The Orange will return home for their next contest, a matchup with #22 Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Panthers (15-1, 3-0) have a little bit of business to take care of before their trip to the Carrier Dome, as they travel to Georgia Tech on Tuesday night before meeting their former Big East mates.
Pitt is a very good shooting team, making 48.4 percent of their shots to this point of the season. Lamar Patterson paces the Panthers with a 17.9 point-per-game scoring average while Talib Zanna posts averages of 12.4 points and 8.0 rebounds per outing. The Panthers are currently in an adjustment period, having just lost their fourth-leading scorer, Durand Johnson, to a season-ending knee injury.
SU and Pitt will face off at 4:00pm Eastern. ESPN will televise the game, which will also be available online at ESPN3.com or through the WatchESPN app.