Oklahoma State roared back after a big first half Syracuse run Wednesday night, building up a big enough lead to coast to an 86-72 victory in the NIT Season Tip-Off at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. After opening the game in quicksand, the Orange (4-2) exploded to take a seven-point lead. The Cowboys (6-0) settled down and got right back into the game, using a pair of runs to take a 12-point lead into the half.
While SU had stretches of strong play in the game, the stat sheet shows how ugly their full game was. Syracuse shot under 34 percent from the field in the game, including under 26 percent from three-point range. The Orange defense was beaten repeatedly, as well, as the ‘Pokes made over 49 percent of their field goal attempts in the game.
The game started horribly for SU, as Oklahoma State jumped out to an 8-0 lead, forcing a timeout from Jim Boeheim before the game was two minutes old. Syracuse came out of the time out and ran a play for a great look, but Elijah Hughes slipped and lost the ball. OSU turned it into a three-pointer to extend their opening barrage to 11-0.
The Orange then shook off the doldrums and exploded for a 21-3 run. Marek Dolezaj (two) and Joe Girard III (three) each got on the scoresheet from the line, then Hughes made another baseline cut for a lay-up, the first SU field goal just under six-and-a-half minutes into the contest. Buddy Boeheim then swished a transition three from the right break to cut the Cowboy lead to 11-10.
Oklahoma State got a lay-up to hang onto the lead, but Hughes went on a personal 9-1 run to boost Syracuse in front. Hughes hit a three from the right corner to knot the score, then offset a Cowboy foul shot with a pair of his own for the first Orange lead. The redshirt junior then hit another three from the right corner, this one while being fouled on an inbounds play, and added the ensuing free throw. Bourama Sidibe then broke free from the ‘Pokes for a two-handed dunk and SU held a 21-14 lead with just over nine minutes left in the first half.
OSU roared right back, finishing a 10-2 run of their own with eight straight points for a 24-23 edge. Quincy Guerrier got the lead back for Syracuse with three foul shots split over two trips to the line, but the Cowboys scored the game’s next eight points for a six-point lead with a little over three minutes left in the opening half.
Guerrier broke the run with another free throw, but Oklahoma State outscored the Orange over the rest of the half, 11-4. Chris Harris Jr. did most of the heavy lifting for the Cowboys, hitting three long triples from the same area, the last coming shortly before the buzzer and boosting the OSU lead to 43-31 at half.
Oklahoma State’s lead grew to 15 in the opening minutes out of the intermission, then they hung a 10-2 run for a 58-39 advantage less than six minutes into the second half. Aided by a defensive switch to trapping out of the zone, SU ran off nine straight points to get back into the game.
Hughes started the burst with the first and last of three free throws. Girard came up with a steal and finished with a fast break lay-up. Hughes scored on a nifty reverse lay-up, then Girard connected on a straightaway three to make it a ten-point gap and force an Oklahoma State time out.
Less than two minutes after that time out, the ‘Pokes blew the game open, scoring 13 of 14 points to push their lead over the 20-point mark for the first time at 73-52 with just over seven minutes to play. Hughes had five points in Syracuse’s last run of the night, a 9-2 effort that closed the margin to 14, and they would never get within a baker’s dozen the rest of the way.
Elijah Hughes poured in a personal-best 28 points to lead the Orange, connecting on five three-pointers in the game. Joe Girard III was the only other SU player to reach double figures, finishing the game with 12 points and nine assists. It was not an overall great night for Girard, though, as he made only 1-of-7 threes and turned the ball over five times. Buddy Boeheim matched Girard’s 1-for-7 mark beyond the arc as he had eight points on the night.
Isaac Likekele had a night for Oklahoma State, shooting 8-of-11 from the field and 9-of-10 from the foul line as he rolled up a career-high 26 points and handed out eight assists. Yor Anei backed him with 18 points and eight rebounds. Thomas Dziagwa hit four three-pointers for the bulk of his 16 points.
Syracuse will meet Penn State in the third-place game of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Friday evening. The Nittany Lions (5-1) led by 21 points in the second half before Mississippi rallied for a 74-72 win.
Lamar Stevens, who leads Penn State with 17.7 points and 8.2 rebounds per game on the season, paced their attack with 22 points. Averaging 11.3 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks on the campaign, Mike Watkins nearly had a triple double against Ole Miss with 18 points, 12 rebounds, and eight blocked shots. Guards Myreon Jones and Myles Dread combine for over 22 points and almost five threes per outing.
Friday’s action will get underway from the Barclays Center once more, this time with the tip at 7:00pm Eastern on ESPN2.