Syracuse Orange hang on for win over Iowa Hawkeyes

Chris McCullough led Syracuse with 20 points
Chris McCullough led Syracuse with 20 points

#23 Syracuse salvaged their trip to New York City on Friday evening by holding off Iowa and claiming a 66-63 win in the consolation game of the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden. It was not easy for the Orange (3-1), as they led the Hawkeyes (2-2) by as many as 15 points in the second half before giving up all but one point of that lead.

Neither team played particularly well over the entire game, as SU again had offensive problems, but also made life difficult for Iowa on the defensive end. The Orange shot 3-for-15 from three-point range as part of a 41.7 percent field goal shooting effort and turned the ball over 14 times. Their defense, however, forced the Hawkeyes into worse performances in both categories – 40 percent field goal shooting and 18 turnovers.

The Orange got into the scorebook first, jumping out to a 4-0 lead on a pair of Rakeem Christmas dunks. Iowa bounced back with the next five points to take the lead, but Trevor Cooney splashed a three to trigger an 8-0 Syracuse run and put them in front by a 12-5 margin just over five minutes into the game.

The Hawkeyes responded by trimming the margin to two. The two squads then alternated scores with an Iowa trey clipping the gap to a single point, then Tyler Roberson answering with a three-point play that gave the Orange a 19-15 lead just after the midpoint of the opening half.

Iowa then used a 9-2 run to snatch control of the game with a 24-21 lead with just under eight minutes left on the clock. SU responded by rattling off seven straight points of their own to regain the lead at 28-24. The Hawkeyes chipped into the Syracuse lead a couple times, but the Orange scored the last three points of the session for a 34-29 lead at the intermission.

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The Hawkeyes shaved a point off the lead in the opening 90 seconds of the second half, but then the Orange defense tightened the screws, holding Iowa to a lone basket over a span lasting nearly seven minutes. The tight defense resulted in a 13-2 Syracuse run closed by eight straight SU points from Kaleb Joseph and Chris McCullough, who alternated baskets. The burst gave the Syracuse their biggest lead of the night at 50-35 with just over 12 minutes to play.

Iowa chipped away five points from the SU lead over the next 90 seconds, but the Orange responded by pushing the lead back to 14, capped when Cooney made a steal and fed Michael Gbinije for a one-handed jam. The Hawkeyes were undeterred, bouncing back with eight consecutive points to slice the Syracuse lead to 57-51 with under seven minutes on the clock.

Syracuse stopped the bleeding with a pair of foul shots from McCullough, but Iowa matched those charity shots, then tacked on a three-pointer and a dunk to get within 59-58 with just over 3:30 to go. Each team notched a dunk, then a lay-up, making it a 63-62 game with under a minute left.

Joseph took a jumper from just inside the foul line with 40 seconds on the game clock and plenty of time on the shot clock, but it was too strong and Iowa rebounded. Following a Hawkeye timeout, McCullough bailed out his fellow freshman by making a great defensive play for the Orange defense, anticipating a post entry pass and jumping in front of it for a steal. He was fouled and sent to the line for a one-and-one with under ten seconds to play.

McCullough was not afraid of the big moment and buried both shots to stretch the Orange lead to 65-62. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim ordered his charges to foul to avoid Iowa getting a three-pointer to tie the game. The decision worked, as Iowa made the first shot, but missed the second. Christmas came down with the board and was fouled.

Christmas made his first free throw for a 66-63 lead, then missed the second. The Hawkeyes rebounded and again SU fouled. This time, though, Iowa missed both free throws and McCullough collected the rebound. McCullough was fouled again, but missed the first try. Iowa got the rebound, but failed to get a shot off before the final buzzer.

Chris McCullough had the best game of his brief career for Syracuse, posting 20 points, nine rebounds, and three blocked shots in the contest. McCullough had 13 points in the second half. Rakeem Christmas bounced back from a poor effort against California with 18 points, including 13 in the opening half. Trevor Cooney was the third SU player in double digits with 14 points, including knocking down three triples. Kaleb Joseph had eight assists in the game.

Iowa also had three players post double figures in scoring, led by Jarrod Uthoff’s 20 points. Aaron White had 15 points and a game-high dozen rebounds while Adam Woodbury aided the Hawkeye cause with 12 points.

The Orange are off until Tuesday, when they will hit the Carrier Dome floor to take on Loyola (MD) at 7:00pm Eastern. The Greyhounds stand 2-1 on the young season, but will face Butler on Saturday prior to coming to the Dome. Loyola finished 11-19 last season and 6-12 in the Patriot League. Their visit to Syracuse will be televised regionally and will also be streamed online at

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About Jim Stechschulte 894 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. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by He currently resides in Syracuse.