Syracuse Basketball: Starters simply fabulous in strong win over CNY foe

Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Over the weekend on the Hill, Syracuse basketball head coach Jim Boeheim played 11 of his 12 scholarship players as the ‘Cuse wrapped up its non-conference slate by hosting Central New York neighbor Cornell.

For much of the 2022-23 season to date, Boeheim has utilized a deep bench, and oftentimes at least one or two reserves were pivotal pieces when the Orange would prevail over an opponent.

But against the Big Red out of the Ivy League, a group that has raced out to an impressive start in 2022-23, it was the ‘Cuse starting five that stole the show for Syracuse basketball.

All five starters put forth really nice performances. And the Orange erased a double-digit deficit in the first half and ultimately beat Cornell in relatively convincing fashion, 78-63, on an emotional Saturday for Boeheim and the entire Syracuse basketball community.

Only a few days earlier, word came across that, sadly, Orange legend Louis Orr had passed away at the age of 64. Orr, one of Boeheim’s first recruits, was one of the best – and most important – ‘Cuse players in the program’s storied history.

Syracuse basketball looked off early but managed to conquer Cornell.

The Big Red (7-3) came out hot from deep and built up an 11-point edge in the first half at 25-14. I was nervous, as I thought Cornell could absolutely take down the Orange at the JMA Wireless Dome.

Let’s not forget that the Big Red’s only two setbacks in 2022-23 prior to Saturday’s contest were on the road to Atlantic Coast Conference squads Boston College and Miami by a combined four points.

However, the ‘Cuse began to tighten up its zone defense, Cornell began to miss shots from the perimeter, and Syracuse basketball would tie things up at 37-all heading into the locker room.

In the second half, the Big Red kept hoisting up attempts from 3-point land, and Cornell didn’t make many of them. The Orange (8-4), conversely, got it together on both ends of the floor.

The starting rotation was great. The ‘Cuse would create a 20-point lead after the intermission before winning by 15 points. With this victory, Syracuse basketball registered a 7-4 mark in the non-conference portion of its 2022-23 stanza. Not awesome. Not awful.

The Orange was far from perfect versus Cornell. The Big Red outrebounded the ‘Cuse and also possessed more assists than Syracuse basketball.

Steals and turnovers committed were about the same. The Orange had a massive advantage in blocked shots, at eight to one.

It really boiled down to Cornell hitting on only 32.9 percent from the field and 27.1 percent from downtown. That included a ridiculous 48 attempts from deep.

Syracuse basketball, meanwhile, made a strong 50 percent from the field, a solid 38.9 percent from 3-point range, and was plus-13 points at the charity stripe.

Senior center Jesse Edwards was a beast in the second half, finishing with 11 points, 12 boards and five blocks. Senior shooting guard Joe Girard III was terrific, posting 19 points, four assists, three rebounds and one steal.

Freshman point guard Judah Mintz struggled with his shot a bit, but he still tallied 14 points, three assists and three steals. His ability to get into the lane is spectacular.

Last but not least, the Orange got strong outings from its two starting forwards. Sophomore Benny Williams had another good game, producing 12 points, five boards, two assists, two steals and one block.

And freshman Chris Bell put forth perhaps his most complete performance so far in a ‘Cuse uniform. He had 13 points, five boards, one assist, one steal and one block. His rebounding total here is most critical.

I was impressed with how Syracuse basketball battled back to tie things up at the break, and then dominate Cornell for much of the second half, as the Orange moved to 96-31 in its long series with the Big Red.

With the non-conference docket complete, the ‘Cuse returns to Atlantic Coast Conference competition with a home date versus Pittsburgh this Tuesday, Dec. 20, beginning at 9 pm.

ESPNU will televise this league affair. Syracuse basketball will be eyeing its sixth consecutive triumph in 2022-23.

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