“Wild” is a good starting point to describe Saturday’s game at the JMA Wireless Dome between Syracuse and Bryant.
The game saw four players, multiple assistant coaches, and one support staffer ejected in the first half, had a couple additional technical fouls, and eventually ended just after Sherif Gross-Bullock coaxed a floater to bounce through the net with eight-tenths of a second left for the Bulldogs (5-1) to pull out a 73-72 victory over the Orange (3-3).
Bryant led for most of the action, as SU did not take the lead until a Jesse Edwards lay-up gave them a 61-60 edge. That was the first of eight lead changes in the last 3:20 of the contest.
After struggling to get in rhythm all game (1-of-12 from the field, 1-of-8 from three), Joe Girard III made both ends of a one-and-one with 8.1 seconds left for a 72-71 Syracuse lead. Gross-Bullock got the inbounds pass for Bryant and took off, getting up a floater in the paint over the outstretched arm of Peter Carey that bounced off the rim twice before dropping through for a 73-72 Bulldog lead with 0.8 seconds remaining.
After taking their final time out, the Orange threw a long pass inbounds pass, but were unable to get clean possession of the ball to get a shot off.
After getting called for his second foul with 7:35 left in the first half, Judah Mintz got into an altercation with Doug Edert of Bryant, reacting to a push by smacking Edert in the face. Edert retaliated in kind and things took off from there, eventually requiring several minutes of video review by the officials to determine all of the events. Both Edert and Mintz were ejected along with two other Bulldog players and coaching staff members from both sides, including SU assistant coaches Adrian Autry and Allen Griffin.
Bryant held a 25-17 lead at that point and Syracuse did not get within five points the rest of the half. The guests ran off eight straight points in one stretch, helping them to a 40-29 halftime lead. The Orange had scored four straight in the final 23 seconds of the half, but Gross-Bullock made a buzzer-beating three-pointer to quiet the crowd.
Edwards and Symir Torrence combined for an 8-0 SU run early in the second half to pull them within 42-37, but Bryant responded with eight straight of their own, reinstating their biggest lead of the game at 13 points. When Edwards scored inside to provide Syracuse with their first lead of the day, it capped a 15-4 run.
Justin Taylor was the surprise offensive hero of the day, pouring in 16 of his 25 points in the second half, including knocking down 10-of-13 from the line. Edwards had a monstrous game, finishing with 12 points and 21 rebounds, including an 11-point, 10-rebound double-double in the second half alone before fouling out with 3:21 left. Chris Bell had 14 points, including nine in the final 6:10 when he and Taylor were the primary source of offense for the Orange.
Antwan Walker led the way for Bryant with 18 points and 11 boards. Gross-Bullock hit three three-pointers and finished with 15 points. Syracuse native Charles Pride and Earl Timberlake each chipped in with 13.
Before getting ejected, it was not a game in which Mintz covered himself in glory. He put up three missed perimeter shots, including a three, and airmailed a pass over Benny Williams in the first four possessions, getting lifted just 2:11 into the game. He finished 2-for-7 from the field with three fouls and three turnovers.
Bryant certainly knew what they were doing against the 2-3 zone. Their 24 field goals broke down to 14 lay-ups, a dunk, and two other shots inside the restricted area circle while they made seven threes. They only tried seven shots between the restricted circle and the three-point arc.
Mounir Hima did not play due to a lower-body injury, but Jim Boeheim noted at halftime that the backup center was available. Benny Williams played just 8:22 in the game due to an illness. He was vomiting before the game and played roughly the first four minutes of each half.
With Williams ailing, Jim Boeheim installed a revolving door for the forwards in the first half and got a lot of use from it. Maliq Brown lasted 46 seconds until he got the hook, eventually returning and playing a total of 4:20 in the first half. John Bol Ajak replaced Brown, eventually playing 27 minutes overall. Quadir Copeland had a cameo of 1:28 before getting yanked for a mistake. Boeheim finally got his best result from Taylor, who had nine points in 9:39 of action, which included some time at guard.
With 13:21 left the second half, Boeheim got as much shooting and rebounding as he could on the floor. Girard ran the point with Bell and Taylor outside with Ajak and Edwards inside, eventually turning to Carey after Edwards fouled out. The group with Edwards eventually became effective, posting the 15-4 run to get the Orange a lead.
After what was far-and-away Taylor’s best performance at SU, there is one simple question: Can any of the forwards provide consistently effective play? Taylor had seven points coming into this game. Williams has been up-and-down, ranging from two points and three boards to 17 and eight when able to play. Bell has five rebounds in 133 minutes of play. That’s not Bell is averaging five rebounds, but he has five rebounds. Ajak had four minutes of play before grabbing six boards and dishing out a team-leading four assists in 27 minutes in this game. Is his energy worth being a complete non-threat on offense?
The Orange will have their first road game of the season when they face #16 Illinois in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday night. The Illini are 5-1 on the season with a victory over then-#8 UCLA and a loss to then-#16 Virginia in the Continental Tire Main Event in Las Vegas.
Terrence Shannon, Jr. paces Illinois with 20.3 points and 3.8 assists per game while shooting 47.1 percent from three-point range. Dain Dainja (13.0 pts/game) and Jayden Epps (11.0 pts/game) also average double digits in scoring.
Tuesday night’s game will get underway at 7:30pm Eastern and will be televised by ESPN.