A quick take on Syracuse’s 79-54 win over Wake Forest on Saturday afternoon:
WHAT HAPPENED: A Sharone Wright Jr. layup with 19:14 left pulled Wake Forest to within 40-35 after the Orange had gone into intermission up 38-30. But Wake Forest would only score two points over the next nine minutes, and by the time Elijah Hughes finished a fast break layup with 11:17 left, the Orange had taken an unassailable 60-37 lead. The Demon Deacons had 25 fast break points in a win over Miami last week, but couldn’t push the tempo against the superior athleticism and length of the Orange, finishing with only 11. Instead, Wake Forest shot just 35 percent from the field and 8-23 from downtown.
ANALYSIS: The win pushed Syracuse to 10 conference victories, and more importantly, likely cemented SU’s ticket to the NCAA Tournament. The ACC is regraded as the best top-heavy conference in the country, and double-digit wins plus a rare road win at No. 1 Duke should be more than enough regardless of how the Orange finishes its two remaining regular season games. SU’s resume has three Quad 1 wins (Duke, Ohio State, Louisville) and, for the time being, only one Quad 3 loss (Georgia Tech). Going forward, pay close attention to Connecticut, Old Dominion and Georgetown. Currently, all three are Quad 2 games, but Connecticut has been trending in the wrong direction, and Georgetown and ODU are on the cusp of the top 75 in NET. If all three drop to Quad 3 games, it would be two more Quad 3 losses for SU, which would drive down their NCAA seeding.
HERO: Tyus Battle and Hughes combined for 39 points on 17 of 25 shooting from the field. Hughes was particularly impressive on Saturday, making a concerted effort to get inside. Seven of his eight field goals came from inside the arc, and he added seven rebounds, two assists and one thunderous block. As a team, SU overcame 4-19 shooting from 3-point land by collecting 44 points in the paint.
ZERO: Brandon Childress scored just five points on 1-8 shooting from the field, and 1-7 from downtown.
WHAT’S NEXT: It’s a quick turnaround, as Syracuse plays its regular season home finale at the Carrier Dome against No. 2 Virginia on Monday, March 4 at 7 p.m. TV: ESPN.