Tuesday evening, Syracuse responded to being unranked for the first time in five calendar years by flattening Loyola (Md.) at the Carrier Dome, 70-37. To be fair, the Greyhounds (2-3) did a lot of beating themselves, as they shot under 20 percent from the field and coughed up the ball 20 times in the game. The Orange (4-1) turned those turnovers into 21 points and also enjoyed a 42-6 advantage in points in the paint.
SU’s offense looked improved, albeit against a lesser opponent than California and Iowa, who they faced last week in New York City. Syracuse was able to often get good looks by either pushing the ball in transition or being patient in the halfcourt. The results showed on the stat sheet, as the Orange shot 51.9 percent from the floor and had 20 assists on their 27 field goals.
One thing that did not change with an improved offensive effort for SU was their perimeter shooting. The Orange made only 2-of-12 shots from behind the three-point line, including missing their first eight shots from deep.
The Syracuse defense was stifling in the first half, as evidenced by the Greyhounds needing over ten minutes to get on the scoreboard and almost 11:30 of game time to make a field goal. Loyola’s troubles on offense more than disguised some early Orange issues, as the hosts did not score until almost three minutes had elapsed and Kaleb Joseph converted a steal into a transition dunk.
After Chris McCullough dropped in a pair of foul shots, B. J. Johnson set up the second SU bucket with a step-in off a shot fake and simple bounce pass to a cutting McCullough for an easy two-handed dunk. That play seemed to get the Syracuse offense in gear. Rakeem Christmas made a jump hook, Johnson scored on a baseline floater, then Michael Gbinije went coast-to-coast on a steal for a lay-up and a 12-0 Orange lead less then nine minutes into the game.
After Christmas scored again, Loyola got on the board with a free throw. Trevor Cooney came up with a steal and went the distance for a three-point play to make it 17-1 with 8:45 left in the half. On their fourteenth shot of the night, the Greyhounds finally connected, getting a long straightaway three to snap their drought.
Another Cooney layup pushed the lead back to 15, but the Orange fouled on a three-pointer and a jumper on consecutive Loyola possessions. When the Greyhounds made all five at the line, they were within 19-9 with 6:20 on the clock.
The two teams played pretty evenly for the remainder of the half, but Christmas scored off an offensive rebound, drew a foul, and converted at the line with 1.1 seconds on the clock to close the scoring. The three-point-play gave Syracuse a 28-16 halftime lead.
The second half started with another Loyola drought from the field, this one lasting just shy of eight minutes. Meanwhile, the Orange were off to a hot start, outscoring the visitors by a 14-1 margin before five minutes were off the clock, paced by McCullough’s eight points.
The burst started with a mid-range jumper from Joseph, then one from McCullough. The freshman forward then dropped in a pair of free throws. Following a Christmas bucket, McCullough slipped a screen and took a pocket pass from Johnson for an easy two-handed stuff, then converted off a drop pass in transition from Joseph. After Joseph hit a long jumper, SU held a 42-17 lead.
The Greyhounds broke out with a 9-1 run to climb back within 43-26, but the Orange ripped off the game’s next 13 points to snuff out any Loyola comeback dreams.
Cooney triggered this run, scoring eight straight points in the middle of the burst. After he made a pair of foul shots, Cooney stepped into a transition three-pointer, then cut for a lay-up and foul off a Joseph drive. After Cooney finished off the three-point play, Christmas completed one of his own and Syracuse owned a 56-26 stranglehold on the game with 8:42 to go.
The Greyhounds got a three-ball to stop the bleeding, but the Orange went right back to work, piling up another dozen unanswered points.
Ron Patterson triggered most of this run, feeding McCullough, then Joseph for transition baskets. After a McCullough free throw and Johnson rattled home a triple, Patterson zipped an entry pass for a Chinoso Obokoh lay-in, then picked a Greyhound pocket and went the distance for a lay-in.
Patterson’s flurry of activity gave SU their largest lead of the night at 68-29 with under five minutes left and the Orange cruised to the final horn from there.
For the second straight outing, Rakeem Christmas topped the Orange with 18 points and tied B.J. Johnson for game-high honors with nine rebounds. Christmas also blocked six Loyola shots, setting a personal record. Chris McCullough had an efficient 17 points in the game, making 6-of-7 from the floor and 5-of-6 at the stripe. Trevor Cooney chipped in with 13 points and Kaleb Joseph added eight.
Only three players scored for the Greyhounds, led by Tyler Hubbard’s game-high 21 points. Hubbard did a lot of his work from deep, making five three-pointers on 14 tries. Eric Laster chipped in with 14 points.
Syracuse will return to action in the Carrier Dome on Friday when they welcome Holy Cross to the hardwood. The Crusaders have won all three of their games on the season, highlighted by a season-opening victory over then-#25 Harvard, 58-57. Holy Cross features a half dozen players averaging at least 8.7 points per game.
Starting at 7:00pm Eastern, the game will be available online at ESPN3.com.