Syracuse basketball’s offense groove returns at right time

Battle Bonnies
Tyus Battle (25) connected on all eight of his field goal attempts and finished with 21 points and six steals to lead Syracuse. St. Bonaventure’s Kyle Lofton defends on the play. Mandatory Photo Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports.

Syracuse had its second straight solid offensive showing, handling St. Bonaventure, 81-47, on Saturday afternoon.

The Orange shot 58 percent from the field and 6-17 from downtown, scoring a season best 46 points in the first half.

“It was just a good overall game,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “I just feel we had more of a complete game than we had. We had good practices which helped and I think it showed today that we just played better.”

SU has now averaged 81.5 in its last two games after averaging an anemic 65.6 points in the five games prior. During that stretch, Syracuse dropped games at home to Old Dominion and Buffalo.

Those woes seems to be behind the Orange, for now, in part because of Syracuse’s stingy 2-3 zone. SU forced a season-high 25 turnovers, who then cashed in with 32 points off of the Bonnies blunders.

The Orange raced out to an early 17-2 lead with guard Tyus Battle getting four quick points, including the first and second steals of the game. He had 10 of Syracuse’s first 12 points and finished the day a perfect 8 for 8 for a game-high 21 points.

“I just wanted to be aggressive and make something happen,” Battle said. “Start the game aggressive early and see where it takes me for the rest of the game.”

Syracuse ended up with 17 steals and got into transition often, finishing with 12 fast break points. Battle had a career-high six.

» Related: Tyus Battle scores 21 to lead Syracuse past cold-shooting St. Bonaventure

“We pushed in transition,” Battle said. “We got a ton of steals today, our defense was really good. That’s how we have to play.”

The Orange also looked more fluid in its half-court sets with Boeheim electing to start Marek Dolezaj at center for a second straight game.

Dolezaj effectively ran the pick and roll with Frank Howard and Battle, dishing out three assists to go with nine points and five rebounds. The improved ball movement resulted in Syracuse assisting on 19 of its 29 field goals.

“I thought he was aggressive,” Boeheim said of Dolezaj. “He’s a good player. He has to play well for us and he was solid today.”

Things were going so well for Dolezaj that he hit both of his free throws after not hitting any shots from the charity stripe through the first 11 games.

Two games after a loss to Buffalo in which the Orange shot just 5-13 from the the line, SU shot 17-22 as a team against the Bonnies.

“The whole game was consistent,” Boeheim said. “I thought that we just had a more complete game than we’ve had.”

Syracuse finding its offensive balance comes as the right time with conference play starting on Jan. 5 against Notre Dame.

“We have four or five practices ahead of us,” Boeheim said. “We need to get better. I think the practices this week will help us. This will be the last time probably that we will have an extended time to really work on things.”

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