A quick take on Syracuse’s 78-70 win against Wake Forest on Sunday afternoon at the Carrier Dome:
WHAT HAPPENED: After a pair of Doral Moore free throws gave Wake Forest an early 8-7 lead with 14:57 left in the first half, a 15-5 run capped by a Tyus Battle 3-pointer put Syracuse ahead 22-13 with 5:34 in the first half. That would give the Orange a lead it would never relinquish, though things got dicey late in the game, with Bryant Crawford’s layup pulling the Deacons to within 65-63 with 4:24 to go. But Syracuse hit its free throws down the stretch, and an emphatic slam by Battle with 15 seconds to go was the exclamation point in a win that moved Syracuse back to .500 in conference play.
ANALYSIS: Syracuse played well on offense for the second straight game, with the Orange shooting 45 percent from the field and 6-12 from downtown. Though Oshae Brissett and Frank Howard combined for 6-23 shooting, each made up for it in his own way. Brissett was 8-10 from the free throw line to go with 10 rebounds, while Howard dished out nine assists and turned the ball over just once. Syracuse had been dominated on the glass by Wake Forest in the previous meeting, but the Orange actually held a +1 advantage on the boards today, much in part to Brissett and Paschal Chukwu, who each went into double digits in rebounding.
HERO: Battle was unstoppable for much of the game, finishing with a game-high 34 points. With Matt Moyer out for the game, and only six scholarship players available, walk-on Braedon Bayer saw the first meaningful action for a non-scholarship player since Justin Thomas played in the sixth overtime of SU’s epic game against UCONN in the 2009 Big East Tournament.
ZERO: To everyone who counted Syracuse out after a humiliating home loss to Virginia, the Orange has resurrected its NCAA hopes in just one short week with an impressive road win over Louisville and a win over a Wake Forest team that is likely better than its record shows. Syracuse has six games left, four of them against ranked teams. If it can hold off NC State and Boston College (no small feat) and then find an upset among Miami, UNC, Duke and Clemson, it would finish 9-9 in the toughest top-to-bottom conference in the country.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse stays home, hosting NC State on Wednesday at 9 p.m.