Saturday night, Syracuse used second half runs of ten and nine straight points to turn a two-point deficit into a 13-point lead as they defeated Elon at the Carrier Dome, 66-55. SU pushed their season record to 3-0 on the strength of their work at the foul line, as they converted 21 fouls by the Phoenix (2-2) into 25 free throws, of which they cashed in 20. The Orange defense also did a solid job, holding the guests to 31.8 percent shooting from the field, including a meager 24.2 percent (8-of-33) from three-point range.
Things started off well for the Orange, as Michael Gbinije converted the opening possession into points, draining an NBA-range three to open the scoring. After an Elon dunk got them on the board, SU scored the next nine points of the game for a 12-2 lead, highlighted by Gbinije splashing a second triple and Tyler Roberson hitting a stickback as the foundation of a three-point play.
That play started a stretch of strong offensive play from Roberson, who added another basket, then knifed through the 1-3-1 defense of the Phoenix for a lay-in. Chinonso Obokoh would add a single free throw to give SU a nine-point lead at 17-8, but the Phoenix would rise, as they tend to do.
Elon got a three-pointer to slice the gap to six, then a banked-in floater and a lay-in to pull within 17-15. DaJuan Coleman powered in for a Syracuse bucket, but the Phoenix got a triple coming out of the under-eight media timeout to draw within one. Both teams would go into an offensive slump, but Elon got a pair of free throws with 4:37 left in the half to take their first lead at 20-19.
The Orange responded with the next ten points of the contest. Three free throws put SU back on top, then Tyler Lydon dropped in a jump-hook off the left block for a 24-20 lead. Roberson finished the Syracuse burst with a pair of lay-ups. The first came from a pretty pass from Kaleb Joseph in the half-court and the latter was a transition lay-in from a Malachi Richardson pass where Roberson also drew contact. The free throw finished the three-point play, giving Roberson 14 points in the first half, and also capped the run with the Orange on top, 29-20, with 1:11 on the clock.
Elon got a trey to close the opening half scoring and the game went to half with Syracuse in front, 29-23.
Following a Phoenix bucket to open the second half, Richardson buried two at the stripe for the Orange. Elon then outscored SU, 9-3, to knot the game and force Jim Boeheim to call a time out prior to four minutes being gone in the half. Just over a minute later, the Phoenix got a goaltending call for their first second half lead at 36-34.
Trevor Cooney hit a three, then, after Elon responded in kind, hit a short jumper in the lane to trigger a 10-0 Orange run. Roberson gathered an airballed three and converted to put SU back in front. Gbinije drew a foul heading into the under-12 media timeout and sank both shots, giving the Orange a four-point lead. A Richardson free throw extended the lead, then Gbinije drove in transition for a three-point-play and a 47-39 lead.
Elon got a three to stop the Orange attack, but Roberson tapped in a miss for a 49-42 lead. The Phoenix again struck for three, this time the hard way, but Roberson buried a 17-footer off a Cooney bounce pass. Gbinije then swiped an errant inbounds pass and stepped into a three for a 54-45 lead, forcing the guests to call timeout with just over nine minutes left. Richardson would tack on a pair from the line to nudge the lead out to 11 points, then Cooney made it 13 after banking one in off the break.
Elon got a three to slice into the lead, but Lydon matched it with a shot-clock beating hoist from the right wing. The Phoenix retaliated by scoring on two straight trips, clipping the margin to 61-52 with under six minutes to go. Neither side would dent the scoreboard for more than three minutes until Elon got another three to pull within a half dozen points with just over two minutes on the clock.
SU, however, would slam the door by making five-of-six at the charity stripe over the final 1:46 while the Phoenix missed their final five shots from the floor.
Tyler Roberson was an absolute monster, scoring 20 points and grabbing 16 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end. Michael Gbinije dropped in 16 points, including hitting a trio of treys, while collecting four steals. Malachi Richardson added 13 points while Trevor Cooney added eight. Tyler Lydon swatted four Elon shots in the game.
Dainon Swoope paced Elon with a dozen points while Dmitri Thompson added ten points to go with his team-leading eight boards. Both Luke Eddy and Brian Dawkins helped the Phoenix cause with eight points.
The Orange will leave the Carrier Dome for the first time on the season when they head to Paradise Island in the Bahamas for action in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Their first opponent in the tournament will be the Charlotte 49ers (1-2), who lost their first two games of the season, including their opener against Elon, before righting their ship with a 77-68 victory over Furman. Andrien White leads Charlotte with a robust 14.3 points per game average, as well as 3.0 steals per game.
Action begins from the islands at approximately 2:30pm Eastern (the SU-Charlotte matchup follows #10 Gonzaga at Washington, which tips off at noon) and will be televised by ESPN2. The telecast will also be streamed online at ESPN3.com.