After his team staged a 24-point, second-half comeback to knock off Patriot League powerhouse Colgate on Tuesday evening at the JMA Wireless Dome, first-year head coach Adrian Autry praised Syracuse basketball players for displaying grit and toughness in producing this stunning result.
Early in the second half on the Hill, the Orange trailed the Raiders, 54-30. Colgate was shredding the ‘Cuse on both ends of the floor. The Syracuse basketball roster looked out of sorts. The hometown crowd, to say the least, was frustrated.
But Autry and his players didn’t throw in the towel. They significantly upped their defensive intensity, improved on the boards, got out in transition and utilized full-court pressure to ultimately defeat Colgate, 79-75.
It was a remarkable turnaround against a terrific Raiders team, one that had beaten the ‘Cuse two times in a row, both by double-digits, at the Dome.
Here are my top observations from the Syracuse basketball triumph over Colgate.
•After falling behind 54-30 in the second half, the Orange outscored Colgate (1-1) by a ridiculous count of 49-21 to win by four points. That’s unreal.
•Junior forward Benny Williams, who missed the first two games of the 2023-24 season due to a suspension, returned. He was not in the starting line-up, logging nine minutes and one rebound. It may take a little time before he settles back in.
•Sophomore forward Chris Bell saved the ‘Cuse (3-0). He hit a ton of timely shots to keep Syracuse basketball within somewhat of striking distance until the squad made its huge comeback. Bell would finish with 25 points on 9-of-19 shooting, including 6-of-14 from downtown. My only small criticism here is that he didn’t register a single rebound.
•Sophomore point guard Judah Mintz, who averaged 23 points per game in victories last week over Canisius and New Hampshire, tallied another 23 points against Colgate. He was 11-of-14 from the charity stripe, and Mintz also had eight assists and three steals.
•Sophomore guard J.J. Starling was the only other ‘Cuse player to reach double-figures in scoring. He produced 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
•Sophomore wing Justin Taylor, once again in the starting rotation, generated six points and six boards. He also hit two shots from long-range.
•Sophomore big man Maliq Brown had six points, three rebounds, three steals and one block. In the game’s final minutes, he possessed a massive play in which he made a steal and had a dunk in transition.
•The ‘Cuse still has to vastly improve on the glass. Colgate out-rebounded the Orange, 44-32, although the two were basically tied in the second half. After the break, the ‘Cuse was better in the rebounding arena, and that enabled Syracuse basketball to get out more in transition, where it thrives. That being said, for the entire encounter, the Raiders held a sizable 18-6 lead in second-chance points, which is problematic for the ‘Cuse.
•The Orange’s defense showed marked improvement in the second half. When the Raiders had the ball in their half-court offense, ‘Cuse players did a better job of fighting through screens, not giving Colgate as many wide-open looks as Syracuse basketball did in the first 20 minutes.
•As the Orange increased its defensive intensity and full-court pressure in the second half to help fuel its comeback, as noted by Autry, Syracuse basketball was able to force 19 Colgate turnovers in total, and the ‘Cuse only committed seven miscues.
•By extension, the Orange held a 20-6 edge in points scored off of turnovers, along with a 24-10 advantage in fast-break points. Syracuse basketball players collected 10 steals and five blocks.
•The ‘Cuse, particularly when it isn’t shooting well from the field, has to drum up points from the free-throw line, and against Colgate, Syracuse basketball was plus-eight points at the charity stripe.
•The Orange only connected on about 28 percent from beyond the arc, however, it made the same number of 3-pointers as the Raiders, at nine each. What’s more, Colgate only hit one shot from deep in the second half. When the Raiders beat Syracuse basketball in 2022 and 2021, Colgate made 19 and 18 shots from 3-point land, respectively. So for the Orange to only give up nine 3-pointers on Tuesday night was big.
•Undeniably, Syracuse basketball has a lot of work to do. This was a terrific comeback against a really good foe, but the ‘Cuse can’t dig these kinds of holes as the competition further intensifies and expect to notch a lot of successes.
•Then again, the Orange showed a lot of heart and resilience in defeating the Raiders. Syracuse basketball only led in this non-conference affair for about 90 seconds, but it led when it mattered the most, at the end.
•In the history of the Syracuse basketball program, it has played Colgate more than any other opponent. By winning on Tuesday, the Orange halted its two-game slide at the hands of the Raiders, and Syracuse basketball is now 128-47 versus Colgate.
•Former ‘Cuse star Tyus Battle was in the house on Tuesday at the Dome. He’s one of my all-time favorite Syracuse basketball players.
•The Orange will next face Southeastern Conference member Tennessee in the first game for the ‘Cuse at the 2023 Allstate Maui Invitational in Honolulu. The Volunteers, this week, are ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press top-25 poll. This juicy meeting will take place starting at 2:30 pm EST on Monday, Nov. 20, with television coverage on ESPN2.