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Syracuse Basketball: Swarming 2nd-half defense a great sign, ignites win

Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) /

The majority of buzz surrounding Syracuse basketball ahead of the 2021-22 campaign is that the Orange would prove a tremendous shooting team from the perimeter, but the main question marks could be a perceived lack of athleticism and a 2-3 zone defense that might have some struggles.

We’re only two games into the current stanza, with a lot of basketball left to play, but it sure was exciting to see the ‘Cuse defense locked in after intermission against a good Drexel team on Sunday night from the Carrier Dome.

After burying seven 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes, the Dragons only made a couple more from deep in the second half. Syracuse basketball defenders were active, assertive and energized following the break, and the Orange managed to pull away for a 75-60 conquest of Drexel.

Syracuse basketball found itself down by one point at halftime.

For the first 10 minutes or so of this non-conference clash, the ‘Cuse (2-0) held a lead of around five points, but the Dragons wouldn’t allow the Orange to break the game open.

Then Syracuse basketball went cold from the field, not scoring for several minutes. That enabled Drexel to eventually build an edge of six points, at 31-25.

However, the ‘Cuse then traveled on its own 7-0 spurt for a 32-31 advantage. Syracuse basketball had an opportunity to grow its lead in the first half’s waning seconds, but a moving screen gave the ball back to the Dragons, and they hit a perimeter jumper to go up 33-32 at the half.

What concerned me through the first 20 minutes was that Drexel players were passing crisply and precisely, and they had a lot of great looks from beyond the arc. The Dragons’ seven 3-pointers were the difference in the contest’s first 20 minutes.

Yet after the break, the Orange defense clearly made adjustments. Syracuse basketball defenders were getting deflections, they were getting blocks (hi, Benny Williams), they were getting steals, and they were being disruptive.

Moreover, all the positive things that the ‘Cuse was doing on defense helped to fuel the team’s offense. Through about 4.5 minutes in the second half, Syracuse basketball had gone on a 16-6 run to construct a nine-point lead.

From there, the Orange simply outmatched Drexel (1-1), widening its advantage to double-digits for much of the game’s conclusion. The Dragons didn’t turn the ball over much in the first half, but in the second session, it was a different story altogether.

In the final 20 minutes, Syracuse basketball would outscore Drexel by a count of 43-27 to ultimately prevail by 15 points. This is a really solid win for the Orange, as the Dragons made the Big Dance a stanza ago, they have a veteran roster, and they shoot well from deep, which can be problematic for the ‘Cuse zone defense.

For Syracuse basketball to reside in a tight encounter for a sizable amount of an early season, non-conference meeting is beneficial to the team, which has three transfers and one freshman within its primary rotation.

The Orange has a bunch of tough opponents lurking in the near future, and to knock off Drexel – one of the best teams in the Colonial Athletic Association – after trailing at halftime is encouraging.

Up next for the ‘Cuse is another challenging non-conference duel, as Syracuse basketball will host fellow Empire State squad Colgate this coming Saturday, with the tip-off slated for 5 pm.

Next. Syracuse Basketball: 5-star target is on pre-season All-America first team. dark