Syracuse won in rare fashion against Wake Forest on Tuesday evening, displaying defensive execution and moxie that had been missing all season.
Down 32-29 at halftime, and 55-47 with around 10 minutes to go, SU played a lackluster game filled with a shortage of offensive production and missed defensive rebounds.
But Syracuse looked crisper in its defensive rotations in the second half, and the Orange was also +5 in overall rebounding margin during that time.
Big performances by Andrew White, Tyler Lydon and Taurean Thompson provided the impetus.
White finished with 27 points, reaching the 1,000-point mark in his collegiate career. His 3 with 1:15 left gave the Orange a 71-68 lead, a lead SU never relinquished.
He then made two clutch free throws with just seconds left.
“I thought he moved well,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “He was more patient, and we did a better job of getting him shots.”
And when White got them, he delivered.
“I play off of guys and try to find ways to get myself open. We trust in one another,” White said. “In the second half, we made an emphasis on trying to get our post players the ball. You have a lot of scoring power when you get your bigs involved. It was a good, well-balanced effort.”
He was right, with bigs Lydon and Thompson finishing with 15 and 18 points respectively.
“We had everybody rebounding,” Lydon said. “Everyone in the second half really locked down. It came down to being more aggressive.”
That aggressiveness lead to a closely contested game, which has been a rarity for SU in ACC play. Syracuse’s other contests were decided by double digits.
“We haven’t been in these types of games, and when you get in one for the first time it’s not always that easy, but we did things down the stretch that you have to do to win,” Boeheim said. “We made some really good plays when we had to. We’ve got to take this and build on it.”
If Syracuse can continue to build on it, perhaps it can build on its NCAA resume, as well.
“It was fun because it’s crunch time. You can feel it in the air,” White said. “We grew a lot tonight because we were able to get over that hump, and that’s going to be what defines our season.”