NEW YORK — A quick take on Syracuse’s 85-64 loss in the third place game of the NIT Season Tipoff at Barclay’s Center:
WHAT HAPPENED: After Penn State had maintained between a 4-6 point lead through most of the second half, a Seth Lundy 3-pointer with 4:37 to go gave the Nittany Lions a 66-56 lead. That proved to be the final momentum swing of the contest, as Syracuse headed back to Central New York winless in Brooklyn. It didn’t appear it was going to be a close game, with the Orange falling behind 30-15 midway through the first half. But Quincy Guerrier gave SU a spark from the bench, helping the Orange on a 20-5 run to tie the game at 35 with 17:27 to go as Elijah Hughes threw down a dunk off a Joe Girard III steal.
ANALYSIS: There are two stats that encompassed Syracuse’s struggles on Friday night: Rebounds and free throws. Penn State forward Mike Watkins stands at 6-9 and 254 pounds, and he flaunted every bit of it in grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds, 10 of them on the offensive glass. He was a huge part of Penn State’s dominance, as the Nittany Lions were +26 on the glass, including an eye-popping 22 offensive rebounds. The Orange also left 11 points on the board, shooting only 22-33 from the charity stripe. It wasn’t a good night offensively for SU, as they shot 33 percent from the field and 6-21 from downtown.
HERO: Watkins (15 points, 15 rebounds), Stevens (20 points, seven rebounds) and Myreon Jones (15 points, nine rebounds) led Penn State. Hughes led Syracuse with 19 points while Guerrier finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
ZERO: We just mentioned that Syracuse was hammered on the glass by Penn State. Part of the reason was the struggle of Bourama Sidibe. Sidibe fouled out with 6:58 left to go, with more fouls (5) than points (2) and rebounds (1) combined. He struggled mightily to defend Watkins. Though Girard dished out seven assists to just two turnovers, he continues to struggle with his offense. He scored six points on 1-9 shooting from the field.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse returns home to play Iowa on Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge. TV: ESPN2.