While never able to really put the game away, Syracuse outscored Oakland in the final six-and-a-half minutes, 11-4, to hold on for a 74-62 home win Wednesday night. The Golden Grizzlies had chopped a ten-point margin down to five, but the Orange (6-5) held their guests without a field goal after the 6:36 mark to secure a non-conference win.
SU escaped in large part due to some stretches of good play from their zone defense, which forced Oakland (5-7) into 16 turnovers and held the guests without a basket for that crucial final stretch and an even longer span early in the contest. The Golden Grizzlies, who came into the game giving the ball away 18.4 percent of the time, gifted the ball to Syracuse on over one-fourth of their 63 possessions on the night. The guests, who were 319th in the country in three-point shooting at just 28.6 percent, also were an anemic 4-of-18 from beyond the arc.
Those turnovers and missed treys helped the Orange stay afloat on a night when their offense operated in fits and starts. The SU offense was heavily tilted to their three perimeter starters, Buddy Boeheim, Joe Girard III, and Elijah Hughes, who threw up 30 of the teams 32 first half field goal attempts, including 22 from beyond the arc. All told, Syracuse attempted 34 triples, making 11 of them for a 32.4 percent success rate.
Oakland got the opening basket of the night, but then went into a field goal drought that lasted over seven minutes. Syracuse capitalized right away with eight straight points to go on top. Marek Dolezaj made a free throw to get the Orange on the board. Elijah Hughes found Joe Girard III, who buried a three from the left corner while being fouled and the foul shot to make it a four-point play. Hughes then connected from beyond the arc by the left break for an 8-2 lead a little over four minutes into the action.
The Golden Grizzlies stayed close through some work at the foul line, eventually pulling within 12-11 with just over nine minutes off the clock.
Buddy Boeheim responded for SU, scoring the team’s next 11 points in just over two minutes, pushing them to a six-point lead. Boeheim hit a three-pointer, then was fouled on another attempt from deep and made the trio of foul shots. The sophomore then curled into a right wing trey and canned a pull-up jumper from the right baseline for a 23-17 Syracuse lead.
Oakland replied with a pair of scores, including their first three-pointer of the evening, to get within a single point again. The Orange bounced back with seven straight points. Hughes started the streak with a turnaround jumper from the left mid-post, then Girard swished a straightaway three and beat the Grizzlies downcourt for a lay-up and a 30-22 lead with just under five minutes left in the half.
Girard nearly had a steal on the next possession, but Oakland’s Christopher Gettelfinger recovered the ball beyond halfcourt. Realizing the shot clock was about to expire, Gettelfinger put up a left-handed shot from beyond midcourt that banked in for three.
SU kept the lead for the remainder of the half, though, pushing the margin out to eight on back-to-back triples by Hughes in the final two minutes of the session. The squads matched baskets in the final minute, giving the Orange a 43-35 halftime lead.
Three-and-a-half minutes out of the break, Boeheim and Hughes made threes from the right side to push the Syracuse lead to 51-39 and force a timeout. Three minutes later, the Golden Grizzlies took advantage of an SU dry spell to score seven straight points and claw back within 55-51 before the under-12 media time out.
The Orange returned to action by scoring the game’s next half dozen points to reinstate a double-digit lead. Quincy Guerrier made a deft inside pass to set up Dolezaj for an easy deuce. Girard then made a pair of foul shots and set up Hughes for a soaring slam dunk on the break for a 61-51 advantage.
Oakland struck back with a 7-2 run to pull within five over the next couple minutes, but the trey that capped that stretch would prove to be their final field goal.
Girard responded with a three to push the lead back to 66-58 then answered two Grizzly foul shots with a set of his own. SU never led by less than eight points the rest of the night.
Elijah Hughes had 15 first half points as he paced Syracuse with a game-high 23, hitting five three-pointers along the way. Joe Girard III handed out seven assists to go with his 20 points, which included a pristine 7-of-7 mark from the stripe. Buddy Boeheim had 11 of his 14 points in the first half. Marek Dolezaj chipped in with nine points while Bourama Sidibe had 13 rebounds and four steals in just 23 minutes of action.
Brad Brechting and Xavier Hill-Mais proved to be a handful inside for Oakand. The duo shot 12-of-16 from the floor and 12-of-12 at the line as Brechting had 20 points and Hill-Mais 16. Each player grabbed a half dozen boards, as well. Tray Maddox Jr. chipped in with nine points as he made two of the Golden Grizzlies’ four three-pointers in the game.
SU returns to action on Saturday when North Florida visits the Carrier Dome. The Ospreys (7-6) have dropped five of their last eight, including Tuesday night’s 98-81 loss at #19 Florida State. Four different players average at least a dozen points per game for North Florida, led by forward Carter Hendricksen, who tops the squad with 16.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
Those four top scorers are also all excellent long-range shooters for the Ospreys, who lead the NCAA in three-point field goals made. J.T. Escobar (38 threes on 40 percent shooting) leads the way, followed by Hendricksen (35 threes on 40.2 percent shooting), Ivan Gandia-Rosa (35 threes, 39.3 percent shooting), and Garrett Sams (22 threes, 36.7 percent shooting).
Saturday evening’s tip-off is set for 6:00pm Eastern. The game will be telecast on the ACC Network.