Syracuse held Wake Forest without a field goal for more than 13:30 of the second half. That defensive stinginess allowed the Orange (19-10, 10-6 ACC), who had seen a 14-point lead trimmed to five, to blow open Saturday’s matinee and cruise to a 79-54 win over the Demon Deacons (11-17, 4-12).
The victory goes a long way toward locking SU into sixth place in the ACC for the season, as they are one game behind both Florida State and Virginia Tech, who defeated Syracuse earlier this season, and one game up on Louisville, who the Orange handled last month.
SU had their third-best shooting day of the season, ripping Wake’s ACC-worst defense by making 54.4 percent of their field goal attempts. Most impressively, Syracuse connected on a hair over 71 percent of their attempts inside the arc as they piled up 44 points in the paint. The Deacons had a mere ten points in that category.
After a tight first four minutes of play, the Orange opened things up with a 12-2 run. Oshae Brissett hit a perimeter jumper and added a lay-up off a step-through. Following a Wake Forest basket, Tyus Battle hit a three from the left corner. Elijah Hughes then drove for a three-point play and added a pull-up jumper in the paint to cap the run and give SU an 18-9 lead with under seven-and-a-half minutes elapsed.
The Demon Deacons stayed close for three more minutes, but Syracuse tacked on eight straight points to get significant breathing room. Battle drove the left side for a basket to start the run, then Hughes cut baseline for a reverse lay-up off a pass from Brissett. Battle finished another drive and Marek Dolezaj scored inside to give the Orange a 34-20 lead with just over five minutes left in the first half.
Wake closed the opening half strong, slicing the gap to 38-30. The hosts continued to have the edge in play in the opening moments of the second half, scoring five of the first seven points out of the locker room to make it a 15-6 run in their favor and close the gap to 40-35.
The Deacons’ second basket, which came about 45 seconds into the second half, would be their last field goal until less than six minutes remained in the contest.
Meanwhile, SU opened up the floodgates, outscoring the hosts, 27-4. Brissett made a pair of foul shots, then Battle hit a pair of jumpers. Wake got a pair of foul shots to get back within nine, but the Orange added the game’s next 14 points.
Frank Howard set up Hughes three times in that span, dishing for a three-pointer from the left side, a backdoor alley-oop dunk, and a fast break lay-up. The last of those scores pushed the SU lead to 60-37. Wake would muster two foul shots in the next couple minutes, but Syracuse would tack on seven more points for a 67-39 lead with 7:35 left.
The Deacons would finally break through with a triple a couple minutes later, but it was just a matter of the clock running out, as the Orange lead never shrank below 23 points the rest of the way.
Tyus Battle and Elijah Hughes combined to connect on 17-of-25 field goal tries, including 15-of-18 inside the arc. Battle finished with a game-high 21 points and five steals while Hughes added 18 points. Oshae Brissett and Paschal Chukwu each chipped in with nine points.
Chaundee Brown led Wake Forest with 14 points. Isaiah Mucius added ten points to the Demon Deacon cause and Sharone Wright Jr. added eight.
The Orange will take a huge step up in competition on Monday, when they close the home portion of their schedule against #2 Virginia. The Cavaliers (26-2, 14-2) have only lost to Duke this season, dropping both contests to the Blue Devils.
Virginia features one of the best defenses in the nation annually and back it with a balanced offense. De’Andre Hunter paces the squad with 15.2 points per game while Kyle Guy averages 15.1 points per outing. Guy has made 86 three-pointers on the season while Ty Jerome, who averages 13.5 points per game, has connected on 52.
The action will get underway at 7:00pm Eastern Monday night with ESPN handling television duties. The game will also be available online at ESPN3.com and through the ESPN app.