Kris Joseph and James Southerland each put in 19 points, Baye Moussa Keita added a career-high 14 and Syracuse pulled away from Albany on the way to a 98-74 win in the second round of the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament.
The Great Danes came out shooting, led by three guards, but the outcome was evident once the Orange went on a 9-0 run with just under 13 minutes remaining in the opening half. During the push, SU scored inside with Fab Melo, outside with Southerland and from the free throw line with C.J. Fair. The balance was a theme for the No. 5 team in America, who notched over 90 points for the second straight night.
"The way you win is to play together, to share, and leave you ego at the door," senior point guard Scoop Jardine said after the game of the depth SU displays. "(with the depth) we can be a great team come March."
"We're pushing for that."
The defensive end was a bit different. After smothering Manhattan a night earlier, Syracuse struggled with Albany's quick guards. Junior College transfer Gerrardo Suero got to the basket seemingly at will, finishing with a game-high 31 points. Logan Aronhalt added 20 points and Mike Black contributed 11 for the Great Danes' cause.
"There were two guys we wanted to be aware of," coach Jim Boeheim said. "And we held them to 51 (points). So that was good."
Albany would get the margin down to 16 points in the second half as a product of an 8-0 run, but it was a case of too little, too late. Despite notching 26 free throws and shooting better than SU from three-point range, the Great Danes would not get closer. The Orange lead ballooned to 29 at one point, though Suero and Aronhalt continued to convert. The defense did dominate the boards 47-29, but it wasn't enough for Boeheim.
The coach added that the defense was not as sharp as it was on Monday in allowing UA back in the game, and maybe fatigue set in on the second night of a back-to-back.
"From the beginning we really weren't ready to go," Boeheim said. "But James really saved the first half."
"He made a bunch of shots, (had he not have) it would have been a really close game."
Southerland came out on fire, netting 14 points by the halfway point of the opening half. He continues to be the biggest surprise on the team, and it led to a career-high in points (19). Southerland got it done on both ends in the win, adding five rebounds and two steals in 23 minutes of playing time. Over the last two games, the junior has 34 points to his name.
Keita broke out as well, nearly doubling his previous career-high in the process. After battling hand/wrist injuries for most of last season, he is healthy and confident when on the floor. Playing through the pain was key for the sophomore heading into this season.
"It helped me stay focused," Keita said. "I feel like if I sat out, I wouldn't have the chemistry with my guys this year."
Keita added five rebounds and two blocks in just 14 minutes of playing time.
The Orange shot over 50 percent for the second straight game, resulting in a second straight rout.
Next up for Syracuse is Colgate on Saturday, before the NIT Tournament continues at Madison Square Garden next week.