As some might say, UNC-Greensboro’s defense added “no value” on Wednesday night as Syracuse rolled them in their first round game of the NIT at the Carrier Dome, 90-77. The Orange (19-14) got just about whatever they wanted on offense when not being careless with the ball, shooting just under 56 percent from the floor and 43 percent from three-point range. SU led by 22 points in the second half until complacency set in and the Spartans (25-10) were able to make the score closer than the competition level of the game.
The hot shooting made up for a lot of careless play from Syracuse, as they turned the ball over 17 times, tying the second-highest mark of the season. The Orange also were not particularly sharp on defense, allowing UNCG to make 46.5 percent of their shots. Where SU did help themselves was a second half parade to the foul line, where they got 20 tries and made 18 of them.
UNC-Greensboro got on the board first, but Syracuse responded with seven straight points to take the lead. Tyus Battle knocked down a three to get the Orange in the scorebook, then Taurean Thompson added a pair of jumpers for a 7-2 lead just over three minutes into the action.
The Spartans fought back, narrowing the margin to a single point before SU hung another run, this one of an 8-2 margin, to regain control again. Thompson had a lay-up, then Andrew White III answered a score from the guests with a pair of threes for an 18-11 Syracuse lead.
In just over three minutes of action, UNCG roared back to take the lead, getting three triples for the bulk of the scoring in a 13-5 run to grab a 24-23 advantage with just over nine minutes left in the first half.
The Orange bounced back to take the lead for good with a dozen straight points and they did it in three-point increments. Frank Howard hit a three from the right wing to start the streak, then Battle drove for a three-point-play. Howard pushed in transition and fed Tyler Lydon for a dunk as part of a three-point-play and White III swished another trey to give SU a 35-24 lead with just over six minutes left in the half.
The Spartans clipped the lead down to a half dozen a couple times, but Syracuse responded with six straight markers in under a minute to balloon the lead back out to 12 points with under two minutes on the clock. The Orange would then carry a 47-37 lead to the locker room.
UNCG chipped the lead down to nine on a couple occasions early in the second session, but SU all but put the game away with a 16-4 run. White III started a streak of seven straight points with a three-ball. The Spartans answered that run with a pair of dunks around a White III jumper. Battle got Syracuse going again with a beautiful three-point-play, then chased a pair of Lydon foul shots with a set of his own, boosting the Orange lead to 69-47 just over eight minutes into the half.
UNC-Greensboro struck back with eight straight points to draw within 14, but SU held them at bay for the next five minutes, eventually stretching the lead back out to 18 points on another White III triple.
The Spartans had one more run in them, though, ripping off 11 points to get within seven with just over two minutes left. Syracuse held on for the win, though, hitting 9-of-10 from the foul line to keep UNCG at arm’s length.
Andrew White III was lights out in the game for the Orange, hitting 11-of-15 shots, including seven threes in nine tries, as he rolled up 34 points. The graduate transfer also set the single-season record for threes with 109 (and counting), passing Gerry McNamara.
Tyus Battle showed aggression with the ball for large portions of the game, finishing with 20 points. Tyler Lydon posted his eighth double-double of the year, finishing with 13 points and ten rebounds. Taurean Thompson chipped in with a dozen points.
Diante Baldwin did a lot of everything for the Spartans, rolling up 19 points, nine assists, eight rebounds, and three steals to lead his team in each statistical category. R.J. White added 16 points while Demetrious Troy helped the UNCG cause with 14. James Dickey was fourth Spartan in double digits with a dozen points.
SU will return to action on Saturday morning when they host Mississippi in second round action. The Rebels (21-13) won at Monmouth on Tuesday, 91-83, to advance to the second round. Three different players average between 14 and 17 points per game for Ole Miss, led by Deandre Burnett at 16.7 points per game. Sebastian Saiz averages a double-double of 15.1 points and 11.2 rebounds.
One of the ESPN networks will televise the game, which gets underway at 11:00am Eastern on Saturday. The game will also be available online at ESPN3.com.