During timeouts of the Syracuse-Niagara basketball game on Saturday, pianist Steve Laureti entertained the Carrier Dome crowd by playing various songs from Billy Joel, Elton John, and Bon Jovi, to name a few. Laureti was on tune. The Orange on the other hand…at times played like a finely tuned piano on offense, however, lost their rhythm and missed a beat here and there in their 71-57 win against Christian Brothers Academy grad and first-year Niagara head basketball coach Greg Paulus.
The High Notes
Syracuse jumped out to a 10-0 lead, making four of its first six shots, (two three-pointers from Buddy Boeheim) before a field goal by Nicholas Kratholm at the 15:34 mark of the first half ended the Niagara drought. The Purple Eagles finally got its offense going and went on a 12-6 run to cut the deficit to 10 (29-19) with seven minutes left in the half, but that’s the closet they would get. Syracuse took a 41-28 lead at the break.
After shooting 48 percent (15 of 33) from the field in the first half, the Orange shot 38 percent (8 of 21) in the second half.
“We had a really good rhythm in the beginning,” head coach Jim Boeheim said. “We got out of rhythm, two guys going in shouldn’t change the rhythm, but it did and it completely turned the game. We never got back into it. We were ahead but they couldn’t convert enough to get back in it.”
Redshirt junior Elijah Hughes scored a game-high 19 points. Hughes hit six of his 11 attempts from the floor, and was 6-for-7 from the foul line to lead four Orange players in double figures. Hughes added nine rebounds and tied his career high with nine assists. Boeheim tossed in 15 points, while junior Bourama Sidibe and freshman Joseph Girard III each had 10 points. Sidibe had a game-best 13 rebounds, three steals and a career-high five blocked shots.
“I don’t think it’s whether you’re scoring, we didn’t get back on defense, But sometimes when you get an easy lead, an early lead, sometime it takes away from what you should be doing,” Boeheim said.
Niagara was led by Nick MacDonald’s 11 points. The Purple Eagles made 40.6 percent of their field goals in the first half, but shot just 25 percent (9 of 36) in the second half. For the game, Niagara shot 32 percent (22 of 68). They were only able to convert on 22 percent (6 of 27) from beyond the arc.
“Syracuse did a wonderful job defensively,” Paulus said. “They really took away our 3-point shots. They are a good team.”
The Low Notes
Syracuse committed 16 turnovers on the night. Five of them came from Hughes. Niagara capitalized for 12 points on the Orange miscues. Heading into the game, Syracuse was averaging 12 turnovers a game. Syracuse had 17 turnovers in a loss against Oklahoma State and a win over Georgia Tech.
“We have to do a better job of not turning the ball over,” Buddy Boeheim said. “We have to make better decisions out there.”
Despite Niagara being considered one of the smallest teams in the country (No. 312 of 353), the Purple Eagles were able to outscore the Orange in the paint 32-24, many of those points coming from the Niagara guards who were able to maneuver the zone and finish against the taller Orange players.
Size helped the Orange though as Syracuse out-rebounded Niagara (45-33) and out-scored the Purple Eagles in second-chance points (15-11).