Elijah Hughes was a key factor in Syracuse’s 82-52 win over Arkansas State on Saturday, tying for a team-high 17 points.
But even as he heated up, shooting 6 of 12, including 3 for 7 from the 3-point line, he stayed cool-headed and unselfish.
The junior transfer from East Carolina buoyed up the Syracuse offense early, scoring nine points on 3-6 shooting in the first half during which the Orange trailed by 11 points with 9:36 to go before rallying to take a 38-36 into the break.
Hughes’ first score of the game was a dunk to pull SU to 10-6. With 8:51 to go in the first half, he hit Syracuse’s first 3-pointer of the game to cut the Red Wolves’ lead to six, energizing the crowd amongst the dismal performance of the rest of the team.
About a minute later, he made another 3 to pull the Orange to within 29-25.
“I thought Elijah saved us early,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said, “when he hit those two threes when we were struggling.”
Hughes also stuffed the stat sheet, adding six rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal. But what made the difference was the timing of his shots, and the calm and collected way he carried himself while making them.
In the second half, Hughes came out strong, scoring a couple quick points, making a block, and dishing to forward Oshae Brissett for an assist in the first few minutes of the half. But as the Orange came roaring back with renewed energy, Hughes shifted.
He was still taking open looks but also helping his teammates create opportunities as they heated up.
“[My job is to] score, attack the basket, make plays… just be a player, really,” Hughes said. “Whether I’m getting into the lane and scoring or getting in the lane and making a play, making a pass, or a foul. Just being a player.”
Hughes is that, and his steady performance could keep the Orange afloat as they face tougher opponents in the spring.
At the very least, Hughes’ performance helped to snap a two-game losing streak.
“[We need to play] with a sense of urgency,” Hughes sad. “In the last two losses, I don’t feel like we really came out to play in the second half.”