Less than two weeks after being routed on the road, the Orange had an opportunity for redemption against Boston College.
Avenging a 96-81 New Year’s Day loss, the Orange defense stood tall and shut down BC’s shooters, helping Syracuse secure a 76-53 win.
“We were active on defense,” said Tyus Battle when comparing the two games. “The game at Boston College, we were standing still too much, we weren’t getting on shooters. Tonight we ran them off the line, made them drive. Our big guys did an amazing job blocking shots and rebounding, making it tough for them.”
The statistics backed up Battle, as the Orange racked up six blocked shots, 11 steals, and 19 defensive rebounds, while BC turned the ball over 20 times.
While the Orange struggled to score early in the game, the team’s defensive play helped keep and then steadily build Syracuse’s lead. In the first half, Syracuse scored 14 points off of 15 BC turnovers. During the second half, Syracuse converted five additional giveaways into six more points.
“We definitely picked up the intensity on defense,” Battle said. “We forced 15 steals in the first half. If we play like this every night, we are going to be tough to beat.”
Unlike the earlier matchup, the heavy pressure by the Orange kept the Golden Eagles from getting hot. BC’s Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson burned Syracuse with a combined 52 points in the first meeting. During the rematch, the duo combined for just 12.
“It changes everybody’s whole mindset when you’re not able to do certain things, and you’re not comfortable,” John Gillon said. “When we take away their shooter’s shooting, they’re going to get frustrated and their not going to be as happy to play defense. They’re not going to play with the same vigor and it makes it easier for us offensively.”
In addition to keeping the BC shooters frustrated, the fiery defensive play by the Orange opened up more opportunities for Syracuse to score as the game wore on.
On top of this three steals, Battle led the team in scoring with a career-high 21 points in the game. Twelve of his points came in the second half as he attacked in the paint against a deflated Boston College team.
Tyler Lydon and Andrew White also found offensive success as a result of the intense Orange defense. While White scored most of his 13 points in the first half, Lydon complemented Battle’s second half attack, finishing with 16.
“We all were clicking defensively,” Gillon said. “I didn’t have a big scoring night, but we played such good defense, I didn’t have to score at all this game. We all played well.”
“It was strictly a defensive effort,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “I think our defense is getting a little better. We didn’t have a great offensive game, but we still had a good game, and I think our offense can still get better. It was a defensive effort. That was the thing tonight.”