What a difference a few days (of practice) can make. After being back in the gym for a handful of sessions, Syracuse returned to game action and looked much more comfortable than in their opener, blowing out Niagara at home on Thursday night, 75-45. The Orange (2-0) rang up a 26-2 first half run to take a 23-point lead and were never threatened again by the Purple Eagles (0-1).
SU was forced to field a different starting lineup with center Bourama Sidibe expected to miss four weeks after meniscus surgery on Tuesday and guard Buddy Boeheim being pulled from the lineup shortly before tip-off due to close contact with a player who had tested positive for COVID-19. Boeheim will also miss multiple games, but his exact return date is not yet known.
Syracuse was unsettled for the opening minutes, then found its groove, eventually leading by double digits for not quite the final 29 minutes of play. Quincy Guerrier led the way by dominating a smaller and less physical Niagara team, posting personal bests of 23 points and 13 rebounds during 25 minutes on the floor.
The two squads were nearly even over the first seven minutes before the Orange scored seven straight points. Alan Griffin had the first four points, including a dunk off the left baseline on a pretty pass from Marek Dolezaj, and Kadary Richmond got a lay-up off a lob from Joe Girard III. Girard closed the stretch with a foul shot, which the Purple Eagles chased with a lay-up.
That basket would be the last Niagara field goal for almost seven-and-a-half minutes as SU rolled up 19 straight points. Six different players touched the scoring column in that span, none of them posting more than four points.
Richmond followed a Dolezaj foul shot by tapping home his own miss, then Griffin pulled up for a long transition three. Quincy Guerrier scored twice inside around a Richmond lay-up created by a slick hesitation move, then Girard connected on a three from the left wing. Woody Newton came off the bench to hit a three from the right break, then made one of two free throws to finish the burst with Syracuse on top, 39-16, with just over five minutes left in the opening half.
The Purple Eagles chipped away at the lead, scoring nine of the next ten points in the game. The guests drew within 42-28 at halftime, then added the first basket of the second session to pull within a dozen.
The Orange responded by quickly extinguishing any comeback hopes with 12 straight points. Girard started the run with a pull-up jumper below the foul line. Guerrier scored inside, then Dolezaj added two free throws. Richmond made a steal and went the distance for a lay-up, then Dolezaj connected on a jump hook in the paint. Richmond then found Guerrier, who shot faked, then laid the ball in for a 54-30 lead less than five-and-a-half minutes out of the break.
SU used six straight points to strengthen their lead to 63-34 shortly before the midpoint of the half. The margin grew to 32 points with under four minutes left and Syracuse coasted to the final horn.
The Orange had a balanced attack behind Guerrier’s double-double. Freshman Kadary Richmond did a little bit of everything in his first start, finishing with 17 points, seven rebounds, six assists, four steals, and three blocks. Alan Griffin had a rough night shooting, making just 3-of-10 field goal attempts, but reached ten points. Woody Newton scored nine points, Joe Girard eight, and Marek Dolezaj seven to go with ten rebounds.
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Marcus Hammond, Nicholas Kratholm, and Nick MacDonald each scored eight points to pace Niagara. Hammond also topped the Purple Eagles with ten rebounds and three steals.
Syracuse will have a short turnaround before entertaining Rider on Saturday evening. The contest will be the first of the season for the Broncs, who lost their five leading scorers from last season’s squad.
Tip-off will be at 7:00pm and the game will be televised by regional sports networks.
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