Tuesday night, Syracuse used a second half run to grab their first lead since the opening minutes of the game, but #21 Rutgers responded with 11 straight points in the closing minutes to claim a 79-69 win in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The Orange (3-1) ran off a 12-3 burst to grab a 61-58 lead with just over seven minutes left, but could not hang on, failing to make a field goal in the final 5:38 of the game.
The Scarlet Knights (3-0), meanwhile, scored on five straight possessions, flipping that three-point deficit into an eight-point advantage with 2:02 remaining. Things were often far too easy for the hosts on offense throughout the game, as they shot 48.3 percent overall and just under 58 percent in the second half.
SU struggled all night from long range, making just under 27 percent of their shots from deep, and faded late, missing their final five three-point attempts. Quincy Guerrier matched his season total from last year, making three-of-five three-pointers in the game, while the rest of the team was a collective 4-for-21 (19.0 percent).
Marek Dolezaj was the only player who could find the bottom of the net early for Syracuse, scoring the team’s first seven points. Shortly after Quincy Guerrier joined Dolezaj in the scoring column, Rutgers took off, posting nine straight points for a 20-10 lead just past the midpoint of the opening half.
The Orange chipped away at that lead with six straight points, including getting Alan Griffin’s only first half points, a pair of foul shots and a triple, on back-to-back possessions. The Scarlet Knights maintained control for the next seven minutes, gradually building their lead back out to ten points at 34-24 with just under three minutes to play in the first half.
SU responded with the last six points before intermission. Robert Braswell started things with a lay-up, then Kadary Richmond made the front end of a bonus opportunity from the foul line. Joe Girard III swished a right wing three in the final seconds before the horn to trim the Rutgers lead to 34-30.
Guerrier opened the second half with a quick three-point play, making it nine straight Syracuse points, but they could not get over the hump. Rutgers scored seven of the game’s next nine points to open their lead back up to 41-35.
The Orange would get within a single point on a pair of occasions, but five straight markers for the hosts rebuilt their lead to a half dozen with just under 11 minutes on the clock.
At that point, SU finally broke through, needing less than four minutes to outscore the Scarlet Knights by a 12-3 margin. Richmond slipped a baseline pass to Griffin for a lay-up, then Guerrier made one free throw after drawing a flagrant foul. Griffin then made a deep three from the left wing to knot the score at 55 a side.
A Rutgers three put them back on top, but Syracuse responded with three consecutive successful possessions. Griffin made a pair of free throws to clip the margin to one, then his dunk nosed the Orange in front. Richmond then played a passing lane for a steal and breakaway dunk, extending the SU lead to 61-58 with just over seven minutes to go.
The two sides alternated scoring a pair of baskets, then the Scarlet Knights took over. Syracuse was helpless during the backbreaking 11-0 run, missing five shots and a free throw while also committing a turnover. By the time Dolezaj made a foul shot to stop the bleeding, Rutgers held a 73-66 lead with 1:53 left.
A pair of Richmond free throws made it a five-point game, but the hosts scored six of the final seven points to coast to the 79-69 final.
Alan Griffin paced the Orange with 20 points, 15 coming in the second half, but also had a half dozen turnovers and shot just 2-of-9 on threes. Quincy Guerrier was an efficient 6-of-9 from the floor as he had 18 points and Marek Dolezaj added 14. Joe Girard III and Kadary Richmond combined for 9 points on 2-for-13 shooting, but tallied 13 assists and Richmond topped the squad with five steals.
Ron Harper Jr. blistered the nets for Rutgers, leading all scorers with five triples and 26 points.
Montez Mathis backed him with 19 points. Jacob Young and Myles Johnson each had a double-double for the Scarlet Knights. Young had 18 points and ten assists to go with five steals while Johnson had a game-high 12 rebounds and 11 points.
SU will make it two straight road contests when they open up ACC play with a game at Boston College on Saturday. The Eagles (1-4) have lost three straight outings, all against major conference foes. BC was defeated by St. John’s and Florida before dropping an 85-80 overtime contest against Minnesota in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday night.
Four different players average double figures in scoring for the Eagles, led by Wynston Tabbs. Tabbs posts 17.2 points per game while C.J. Felder, Jay Heath, and Rich Kelly average between 10.8 and 12.5 points per outing.
Syracuse and Boston College will tip at 1:00pm and the game will be televised by ESPNU.