SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- In a first half filled with runs (Syracuse had two separate 11-0 spurts in the first frame), the Orange needed a steal and near half-court three pointer from Trevor Cooney to push their lead to four entering the intermission. The Orange pulled away steadily in the second half, behind a career performance from junior Michael Gbinije.
"They were leaving Mike," head coach Jim Boeheim said. "They did a little bit like St. John's did coming back in and helping inside. He made them pay. He can make that shot. It makes us a different team when he scores in those situations where he's getting open shots. I thought he was great today."
Gbinije carried the Syracuse offense for much of the game, hitting nearly every open shot he took. He finished with a career high 24 points on 10-13 shooting, including 4-6 from behind the three point arc. Rakeem Christmas added 24 (and 10 rebounds) and Trevor Cooney contributed 16 in Syracuse's 85-67 victory over Long Beach State.
With the win, Syracuse improved to 8-4 on the season and have won two in a row.
Syracuse needed every bit of their strong offensive performance (58% shooting overall) as Long Beach State shot 47% from the field. The Orange zone keyed on their outside shooters, however, holding them to just 6-20 from distance. The zone also forced 15 49er turnovers, which helped Syracuse get out into transition for some easy buckets.
"I thought, offensively, we were as good all night as we've been all year," Boeheim said. "We moved the basketball. When Rak got it, got doubled and he got it out of there. The second half started, we didn't play defense in the first half. That was something that was a big concern. We've got to play better defensively. We picked it up a little bit in the second half."
Syracuse opened the second half with a 7-0 run, and then an 8-0 run after an 8-3 Long Beach State spurt. Freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph only had 8 points, but dished out 7 assists while only turning it over twice in addition to his four steals.
WHAT WE LIKED: Gbinije has fantastic offensively. He did not force shots despite shooting the ball so well. He hit every open shoot he got on his way to a career high 24. Not only was he hitting open jumpers (he finished 4-6 from three point range), but he helped in other ways as well. Gbinije had eight assists, six rebounds and a steal. It was his best performance in a Syracuse uniform.
WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE: The Syracuse defense, despite defending the three well, gave up too many easy shots inside. Against a smaller and less athletic Long Beach State front court, allowing easy looks inside. Syracuse only had five blocks on the afternoon and gave up 27 points from the 49ers two starting forwards.
KEY MOMENT: After Long Beach State cut the Syracuse lead to 54-50 with 14:14 left in the game, Syracuse went on a quick 8-0 run over the next three minutes. Gbinije, Christmas and Roberson all scored during the critical spurt. Long Beach State never got closer than nine the rest of the way.
QUOTABLE: "We played a stretch of defense where we got active. Chris and Tyler have got to be more active on defense. When they're active, we've got a different defense. We made some really good plays defensively in the second half. Hopefully that will help us."
-- Jim Boeheim on the defensive effort in the second half
STAT OF THE DAY: Syracuse hit seven of their 12 three point attempts while Long Beach State only hit six of their 23 shots from distance. For a Syracuse team that does not shoot well from the outside, it was a strong performance. The key was not forcing shots and only taking wide open looks set up by penetration and inside-out play.
UP NEXT: Syracuse faces Cornell on New Year's Eve at 6:00pm in the Carrier Dome.
Jim Boeheim Post-Game: