Syracuse basketball hung tough with No. 7 Tennessee for much of their Orange-clad battle on Monday afternoon in the opening round of the 2023 Allstate Maui Invitational in Hawaii, but the Volunteers pulled away late to hand the ‘Cuse its first loss of the 2023-24 season, 73-56.
The Orange (3-1) was next set to face either No. 2 Purdue or No. 11 Gonzaga on Tuesday beginning at 2:30 pm EST in another tough non-conference clash for the ‘Cuse.
The Volunteers (4-0) led Syracuse basketball, 30-25, at halftime from the University of Hawaii’s SimpliFi Arena in Honolulu. And for a good part of the second half, the ‘Cuse kept things close with the Vols.
With just over three minutes remaining in this contest, and Tennessee leading, 61-56, the Volunteers went on a pivotal 12-0 run down the stretch to notch a 17-point triumph over the Orange.
Here are my top observations as Syracuse basketball suffered its first setback of the 2023-24 term.
•To put it bluntly, the ‘Cuse really struggled to shoot. The Orange only connected on 35 percent from the field, 30 percent from beyond the arc, and an awful 47 percent from the free-throw line.
•Rebounding continues to be a problem for Syracuse basketball. On the glass, Tennessee dominated the ‘Cuse, 48-33.
•The turnover department was roughly identical between these two squads, however, the Volunteers held a commanding 18-6 edge in points off of turnovers. In fast-break points, Tennessee was ahead of the Orange, 11-6.
•Getting back to the boards, Tennessee corralled 13 offensive rebounds, and the Vols owned a 14-5 advantage in second-chance points. That’s not good.
•While Syracuse basketball held a slight edge in bench points, at 15-13, the ‘Cuse trailed Tennessee in points scored in the paint, 32-26.
•Sophomore forward Chris Bell was great again. Last week, he collected a career-high 25 points as the Orange stormed back to defeat Colgate at home, 79-75. Versus the Vols, Bell notched 16 points, one rebound, one block and one steal. Bell, much like his teammates, needs to pound the glass better, but scoring-wise, he was 7-of-13 from the field and connected on two 3-pointers.
•Sophomore point guard Judah Mintz, who entered Monday’s game averaging 23 points per encounter, was the only other ‘Cuse player to reach double-figures in scoring against Tennessee. Mintz struggled a bit from the field and the charity stripe, although he produced 15 points, three rebounds, two assists, one steal and four turnovers.
•Junior forward Benny Williams, in his second game back after being suspended from the Orange program “for a violation of team rules” that caused him to miss the first two affairs in 2023-24, had the hot hand early. He finished with eight points, four rebounds and a steal, and Williams was 2-of-2 from 3-point land.
•Sophomore guard J.J. Starling struggled from the field, much like Mintz did. Starling tallied nine points, four rebounds, five assists and four turnovers.
•Sophomore wing Justin Taylor, yet again in the starting rotation, didn’t make a shot, but he did manage to grab seven rebounds and had two steals.
•After Syracuse basketball squares off with either Gonzaga or Purdue on Tuesday, the ‘Cuse will wrap up its time in Hawaii by playing either Kansas, Chaminade, UCLA or Marquette on Wednesday.
•On Monday, the Orange lost its first game ever in the Maui Invitational. Syracuse basketball had been 9-0 overall, winning this prestigious early season tournament back in 1990, 1998 and 2013.