A quick take on Syracuse’s 71-57 far-from-perfect victory over Niagara Saturday evening in the Dome, the final non-ACC game of the season:
WHAT HAPPENED: Syracuse wrapped up its non-conference games with a relatively easy win over the under-manned Purple Eagles and head coach Greg Paulus, the former 2009 Orange quarterback and four year Duke guard (2006-09). In the final preparation before the riggers of traversing through the ACC, the outcome was never in doubt for SU against a program that is totally rebuilding from the ground floor under Paulus, but the performance is not going to leave Jim Boeheim happy coming off the Holiday break. SU was sloppy committing 16 turnovers, and it took all the offense the ‘Cuse starters could muster over the final 7:00 to secure the win.
ANALYSIS: Syracuse led by 16 in the first half and by 41-28 at halftime as Jim Boeheim was able to play eight players in the first half in a final fall semester tune-up, if you will. But the second half when Niagara cut the lead to 11 in the final minutes is going to make Boeheim happy to know he has another week of practice time available before the first of 18 games in the rugged ACC. Call him “Mr. 3-Pointer.” Robert Braswell earned seven minutes of first-half playing time and swished two beauties from beyond the arc, plus 2-rebounds, but did not play after halftime.
HEROES: Each time the gutty Purple Eagles put up a fight, Buddy Boeheim seemingly hit a three-point basket to put an end to making matters close. Boeheim finished with 15-points on five treys, and had two rebounds and two assists. Elijah Hughes showed he’s ready for the ACC with a stylish 19-points, 9-assists, and 9-rebounds night. Bourama Sidibe had a double-double with 10-points and 13-rebounds, along with 5-blocks before fouling out with under 1:00 to play.
ZERO: The bench, except for Braswell, did not make enough contributions in a game that Boeheim was looking for players to step-up and contribute before the ACC contests. Quincy Guierrier (0-points, 3-rebounds) regressed from his performance against North Florida, and Bycen Goodine (2-points) continues to slowly adjust to the college game. The defense allowed Niagara too many second chance opportunities even though the Orange won the battle of the boards 44-33. Joe Girard III missed just his second foul shot (33-of-35) of the season with 0:12 left.
WHAT’S NEXT: Following a second consecutive week off between games, Syracuse opens up ACC play the rest of the way by hosting Notre Dame next Sat., Jan. 4. SU won last year in South Bend by 10, and the two teams will play twice this season with both games in Jan. The Irish (8-4, 0-2) have dropped league games to North Carolina and Boston College, and play a final non-conference tune-up Sunday at home vs. Alabama A&M. Game Time: 4:00 p.m. ET / TV: ESPN2 or ESPNU.