Stifling zone defense, selfless ball movement and white-hot shooting from all over the court carried Syracuse to a 78-43 blowout win over Colgate, Monday, in the Orange’s last game before the holiday break.
It was the 167th meeting between the upstate New York foes, and Syracuse (7-4) has won the last 49 against Colgate (3-9). Syracuse beat Colgate by just 69-60 a year ago when the Orange won their first 25 games.
This year’s contest wasn’t as close from the start.
Although the Orange held a 30-point lead at the half and the Raiders never pulled closer than the halftime deficit, the more impressive feat was junior guard Trevor Cooney outscoring the entire Colgate team 14-13 at the half. On top of that, Syracuse didn’t turn the ball over once in the opening 20 minutes.
Syracuse finished with a paltry six turnovers coming at the hands of Joseph (2), Patterson (2) and McCullough (2).
Without forced errors, the Orange clicked at both ends of the floor through pick-and-rolls, quick handoffs and backdoor cuts, which led to the Orange shooting 17-of-34 (50 percent) from the floor, and 5-of-11 (45.5 percent) from beyond the arc. Add to the 10 first-half assists and it’s easy to see why the Orange coasted to a large halftime lead.
After the half, Syracuse continued its hot shooting led by Cooney and sophomore guard Ron Patterson, who pitched in with 13 points off the bench, including 3-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc.
Coming into the game Syracuse was shooting an abysmal 22.5 percent from beyond the arc while ranking 161st in the country in field goal percentage, but after Cooney’s first 3-pointer of the night started the scoring for the Orange they seemingly couldn’t miss.
On the night Cooney finished 8-of-15 from the floor (4-of-9 from three) totaling 20 points. Midway through the second half Cooney was still single-handedly outscoring the Raiders until Ethan Jacobs and Luke Roh made back-to-back shots to end Cooney’s attempt at an impressive feat.
“I know we’re a better team when I come out here and I play like I just did,” Cooney said. “When I’m aggressive, good things are going to happen for this team.”
As Cooney rained threes from all over the court, Michael Gbinije added another outside threat, knocking down 2-of-3 treys (3-of-7 overall) to finish with 11 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. His 11 points put him in double-digits scoring wise for the fourth time in five games.
In 40 minutes the Orange attempted 20 three-pointers, knocking down exactly 50 percent of them.
Boeheim said it was good to see some shots go in, which led to a nice bounce-back win following a tough loss at the hands of Villanova this past weekend.
While everything seemed to click for Cooney and Gbinije, freshman guard Kaleb Joseph struggling with consistency and freshman forward Chris McCullough struggling in general. The frosh forward that has been hailed as a lottery pick in the 2015 NBA Draft finished 1-of-6 from the floor for 4 points.
“As a lottery pick, I don’t know how he could struggle,” head coach Jim Boeheim said. “I have a better chance of winning the lottery [than McCullough being a lottery pick], and I don’t even buy tickets.”
Boeheim later added that teams aren’t even focusing on McCullough in the offensive end with the presence of Christmas and Cooney drawing most of the attention.
Speaking of Christmas, the senior center continues to be Mr. Consistency for Syracuse.
For the third time this season, Christmas recorded a double-double with 16 points, 11 rebounds and two assists. Showing deft touch around the rim, Christmas has been arguably the most important player for the Orange offense. A hard crash to the floor following a failed dunk attempt nearly changed all of that and put a scare into the 18,905 fans in attendance and many more watching at home on ESPNU.
Fortunately for the Orange, Christmas avoided serious injury and stayed in the game as Syracuse continued to roll.
As the offense fired on all cylinders, the 2-3 zone did a masterful job of suffocating the Raiders on entry passes, which led to 23 attempted three-pointers; more than half of the shots Colgate attempted was from beyond the arc.
Austin Tillotson, Damon Sherman-Newsome and Anthony DeRiggs knocked down the only three-pointers (three) of the night for Raiders. Tillotson finished with 11 points, Sherman-Newsome finished with a team-high 13 - including 9 points at the half, and Jacobs finished with 8 points.
The Orange will have a break until Dec. 28 when Long Beach State (5-8) comes into the Dome with tip-off set for 2 p.m.
Boeheim Post Game: