NEW YORK — Matt Moyer was momentarily confused.
Midway through the first half of Syracuse’s 72-63 win over Connecticut, Moyer watched as Oshae Brissett hoisted a corner 3-pointer and quickly surveyed the landscape in front of him.
“Why is no one blocking me out?” Moyer said. “I’m thinking, are you serious?”
Confusion soon gave way to excitement as the 6-foot-8 freshman glided into the paint, unobstructed. Moyer rose to catch the ball as it careened off the rim and in one motion emphatically slammed it down.
It was the exclamation point to an 18 point, eight rebound effort, both career highs.
“I’m curious if it’s going to get on ESPN’s Top 10,” Moyer said. “That would be cool. Everyone hash tag that.”
Moyer pumped both fists through the air, letting out a guttural yell as he landed, and the crowd cooed along. While Moyer was certainly enjoying the moment, he was perhaps also exorcising the demons of a slow start to the season.
“He’s been horrible all year,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “Horrible is a nice word.”
Though Moyer has started all eight of SU’s games, he has often drawn the ire of Boeheim, and has been given a quick hook from the lineup.
Moyer played a combined 20 minutes against Maryland and Kansas in SU’s last two games and didn’t score. He was also held out of the scoring column in games against Iona and Texas Southern.
Even with Tuesday’s standout performance, he’s still just averaging 2.4 points and 4.0 rebounds so far.
Not to say that Moyer is discouraged.
“Coach told me how he’s going to coach me,” Moyer said. “It’s no surprise. Coach has been doing this with guys who are in the pros now. Jerami (Grant) got it. Carmelo (Anthony got it). If they can get it, I can definitely get it.”
He did on Tuesday, playing 36 minutes, which also included another tip-slam, two rim-rattling second-half jams, and his first career 3-pointer.
But all of that was secondary compared to his first dunk, which came with 12:16 left in the first half, and gave the Orange an early 18-13 lead.
“Coach always tells me to go to the glass every play,” Moyer said. “For me, I just need a bucket. If I get that bucket, it’s going to get me in the flow of the game. If I get it going early, it’s going to be a problem for a lot of teams.”
He certainly was a problem for UConn.