The Syracuse offense struggled throughout the first half, but thanks to a strong defensive effort, they were able to pull away from Loyola right from the start in a dominating 70-37 victory. The Orange held Loyola to just 19% shooting on the night, scored 21 points off of 19 Greyhound turnovers and blocked eight shots as they improved to 4-1 on the season.
"I thought our defense was good," head coach Jim Boeheim said. "That's it. Our offense, obviously, we're a long ways away."
Syracuse turned things around offensively in the second half, pounding the ball inside to take advantage of a significant size, length and athleticism advantage. Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough led the way combining for 35 points, 16 rebounds and 7 blocks. Syracuse shot over 61% from the floor in a second half where they poured in 42 points thanks to their dominance inside In fact, 42 of Syracuse's 70 points on the night came in the paint.
The second started with a quick 14-1 run by the Orange to extend the lead and allow Syracuse to coast the rest of the way.
"I thought in the second half, we relaxed a little bit," Boeheim said. "Kaleb relaxed a little bit. (He) got a couple easy shots and he's got to just play like that. Knock them down. Knock those shots down and loosen up a little bit. I thought Trevor got to the basket better and that's a good thing. We did a good job looking for Rak inside. He's got to finish better around the basket."
Christmas had six of Syracuse's blocks on the night and McCullough reached double figures for the fifth time in as many games this season. Loyola had no answers for either all night, as both made plays out of the post, crashed the boards and reeked havoc on the defensive end.
"He's (McCullough) played well," Boeheim said. "He's done a good job. He's found his spots where he can be effective. I thought tonight there were a couple times where he could've moved into better position or we could have gotten him the ball in better position. But that'll come in time."
The Greyhounds were relegated to throwing up long three-pointers because of Christmas and McCullough's dominance in the lane. They made only seven of their 28 attempts from beyond the arc.
Sophomore forward Tyler Roberson missed the game with a groin injury, leaving B.J. Johnson and Michael Gbinije to pick up the slack. They did not have great shooting nights, but did combine for 12 rebounds and four assists.
Trevor Cooney and Kaleb Joseph were solid in the backcourt. Cooney scored 13 points while Joseph added eight points and seven assists to go with just two turnovers. Ron Patterson got some run and tallied four assists and two steals in just 14 minutes of action.
WHAT WE LIKED: The Syracuse defense dominated the inferior Greyhounds right from the start. It took over 10 minutes of game time before Loyola hit their first field goal. Syracuse rotated well, prevented the Loyola shooters from getting open looks and dominated inside. The only threes Loyola hit for most of the night were a good three or four steps beyond the three-point line. Syracuse will give opponents those shots any day of the week. The Orange forced 19 turnovers and finished with 25 fastbreak points. When the offense was struggling early, the defense kept Loyola at a comfortable distance.
WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE: The Syracuse offense was sluggish in the first half, shooting only 42% from the field and committing careless turnovers. Missing open shots and not finishing around the rim was a big reason why they only mustered 28 first half points despite their significant advantages all over the floor. Also, Rakeem Christmas picked up four fouls, something he has done every game this season. He has to be smarter on the defensive end of the court as he is their most important player.
KEY MOMENT: With Loyola gaining some rhythm towards the end of the first half and Syracuse continuing to struggle shooting the ball, the opening minutes of the second half were critical for both sides. Over the first 4:09 of the final frame, Syracuse went on a 14-1 run to push the lead to 25. The Orange would put it in cruise control from there.
STAT OF THE DAY: Loyola made only 10 field goals on 52 attempts, good for just 19% shooting. Of their 52 shots, 28 were from three-point range. The Greyhounds managed only six points in the paint for the entire game.
QUOTABLE: "Tyler Roberson has a strained, something. He's going to try to rest it for two or three days. Hopefully that'll work. It may not. Really, it's been bothering him since the Hampton game. I think that's why he hasn't been able to be effective because he's not able to move the way he needs to. We're hopeful this could be something that could get better in a few days. If not, we'll just see how long it takes." -- Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim on Roberson's injury
UP NEXT: Syracuse faces Holy Cross on Friday, November 28th at 7:00pm in the Carrier Dome. The Crusaders are 3-0 on the season, including an upset of then nationally ranked Harvard to open the season. Since then, Holy Cross has blown out Brown and Nichols College. They are not a great outside shooting team, but have a pair of guards in Justin Burrell and Eric Green who are natural scorers.
Jim Boeheim Post-Game: