Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Story by Robert Schiff
Photos by Jon Cerio
SYRACUSE, N.Y. - After suffering its worst home loss in the history to St. John's last Wednesday, Syracuse bounced back in its final non-conference game of the season and defeated the Cornell Big Red, 80-56, in front of an announced 20,557 fans at the Carrier Dome on Tuesday night.
"We have a lot of work to do," head coach Jim Boeheim said. "Tonight was a baby, baby step and it doesn't really mean much, but we have to get ready and we've got some time."
Early on, the Orange hardly looked like a team angered by a 33-point loss. After a missed layup by Tyus Battle, Cornell sophomore guard Matt Morgan drilled a three, giving the Big Red an early 8-2 lead with just over two and a half minutes gone by. Morgan connected on his second three of the game with 12:34 to go, breaking a 12-12 tie.
Morgan had ten points for the Big Red.
A Morgan layup with just under five minutes remaining in the first half cut Syracuse's lead to 25-20. A sense of angst hung over the Carrier Dome, as the Orange continued to let Cornell keep the game close. This all changed on one possession.
With Syracuse up five, Tyler Lydon drove down the lane, and missed a runner, but Tyler Roberson followed the miss with a thunderous slam, sending the Orange fans to their feet. The slam not only reinvigorated the crowd, but it gave life to Roberson's teammates as well.
Andrew White hit a layup on the Orange's next possession, and Battle's basket with 2:24 to go in the half capped off an 8-0 run by Syracuse, extending its lead to 13. Lydon hit his third three of the half with just over a minute to go, and Roberson jammed another one home, sending the Orange to the locker room with a 17 point lead at halftime.
With just over a minute gone by in the second half, Cornell sophomore guard Troy Whiteside nailed a three, cutting Syracuse's lead to 14. That's the closest the Big Red got. Whiteside was high scorer for The Big Red with 13.
Four straight points from Taurean Thompson, followed by two free throws from Andrew White gave the Orange a 20 point cushion with just under four minutes elapsed in the second half. Lydon drained his fourth straight three of the night with 14:15 remaining, making it 57-36, in favor of the Orange. The sophomore led the Orange with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
In just his fourth start of the season, freshman Tyus Battle looked like he was right where he belonged. Battle's back-to-back threes gave the Orange a 27 point lead with 12:21 to go. The New Jersey native finished with 16 points on 5-for-11 shooting, going 4-for-7 from behind the arc.
Big Night for the Big Man
Forward Taurean Thompson continued his impressive freshman campaign with another solid offensive performance for the Orange. After only attempting six shots against St. John's, the 6' 10" Thompson had his way against Cornell's defense. Thompson finished with 18 points on 9-for-15 shooting in just 22 minutes. His final jumper of the night came with 6:44 left in the game, extending Syracuse's lead to 30, its largest of the game.
"He is a very, very good offensive player," Boeheim said. He is our best low-post player and it's not even close."
"That loss to St. Johns awakened the fire we had," Thompson said. "That first practice back from break was intense and we are stepping it up and picking each other up."
Not So Fast
The Orange did what it was supposed to do on Tuesday. However, the Orange took a while to get going against The Big Red. Despite the 24 point win, Syracuse only shot 37 percent from the field in the second half, and allowed Cornell to shoot 50 percent in that time frame. But, the Orange took advantage of second chance opportunities, turning 12 offensive rebounds into 18 points. Syracuse also scored 16 fast break points, while shutting out the Big Red.
"I just coach them. That’s for you guys (the media), all that stuff," Boeheim said, when asked what he did to motivate the team. "We go to practice. We go to practice every day. If we win 20 in a row, we go to practice the next day. If we lose 20 in a row, we go to practice the next day. That’s it. All the other stuff is nonsense. We don’t win any games talking to people. We win games by playing better. We’re not better. We have to get better."
Syracuse has four days to prepare for its first conference game of the season. The Orange (8-5) will head to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts to take on the Boston College Eagles (7-6) this Sunday at 12:30 p.m. eastern.
As for Cornell, the Big Red returned home to Ithaca to prepare for its next game against the University of Massachusetts Lowell on Thursday night at 6 p.m.