The Eagles may have done a little more than ruffle some feathers on New Year's Day in Boston.
On Wednesday night in the Carrier Dome, we saw a different Syracuse team from what we've seen all season. This team was cohesive, efficient, and down right tenacious.
After an embarrassing loss to the Eagles on New Year's Day, Syracuse dominated both sides of the ball on Wednesday night against Miami, as they put away the Canes, 70-55.
Syracuse shot 56 percent shooting in its ACC home opener, helping them to outlast the Hurricanes’ eleven three-point baskets. Andrew White was the Orange's leading scorer with 22 points. Tyler Lydon wasn't far behind with 20 points.
“We kept looking to shoot it,” Coach Boeheim said. “Tyler (Lydon) made a couple of plays inside. Offensively, we were just a little more aware of what we were trying to do.”
The Orange offense started flowing early on. 13 seconds after winning the tip, Andrew White hit a jumper for the first basket of the game. Tyus Battle made it 4-0 Syracuse with a jumper of his own on the next possession.
“I thought they were very, very sharp, right from the opening tip,” Miami Coach Jim Larranaga said. “The first few shots that they hit were exactly the kind of shots we did not want them even shooting – just a pass directly to a shooter.”
Miami answered back with a 10-2 run, which included two three-pointers and slam dunks. Not exactly what the Orange was hoping to see early on. It was 10-6 Canes after 3:21 of play.
Taurean Thompson got into foul trouble early on, picking up his second personal with 15:40 left in the first half. He wasn’t much of a factor on the night.
A Lydon slam and a Roberson layup tied the game up at 12 apiece with 14:08 remaining until halftime. The Canes weren’t giving up the lead too easily, however.
In what’s been a recurring theme for the Orange this season, an opposing player got hot from downtown. Miami’s Dejan Visiljevic knocked down a three to give the Canes the edge. He ended up 6-12 from beyond the arc, with 18 points.
Over the course of the next seven minutes, both teams would trade makes from deep. Bruce Brown and Dejan Visiljevic connected for the Canes, while John Gillon, Lydon and White each hit one for the Orange.
At one point, back-to-back threes from Lydon and White got the crowd on their feet. Visiljevic quieted them down however with a three. The score was 25-24 with 6:03 to go in the first half.
Syracuse kept fighting, going on a 7-0 run. Gillon got it started with a layup, followed by an assist to White. Gillon and Lydon added three free throws as well during the run. Syracuse was up 32-24 with 1:32 remaining until halftime. They went into the locker room still up eight, 34-26.
“I think everybody just had energy,” Andrew White said. “I know our guards and myself watched some extra tape with Coach G-Mac (Gerry McNamara) and that helped us a little bit more because we were locked in better to personnel, so I know I will ask him for that again.”
John Gillon started for Syracuse and didn’t look back. He was 3-7 from the field and scored eight points, but also added eleven assists and two steals in 39 minutes of action. Frank Howard ended the night with one minute on the scorecard.
“We just played to get the win,” Tyus Battle said. “We didn’t worry about our individual stats or anything like that. We flew around on defense, closed on shooters and crashed the boards.”
The two Tylers got things going for SU in the second half, first with a Lydon slam, and then a Roberson layup, pushing the lead to 38-28.
Kamari Murphy, Dejan Vasiljevic, and Bruce Brown led the Hurricanes back from the deficit, with a combination of dunks, threes and inside looks. Miami went on a 14-5 run to cut the Orange lead to 43-42, with 13:03 to play.
Though the Canes pushed back hard, they could not regain the lead or tie things up the rest of the way. Syracuse responded with a 9-0 run of its own, including back-to-back threes from Andrew White to pump up the crowd. The lead was back to ten at 52-42.
“Our defense was better tonight,” Coach Boeheim said. “We gave up some open threes, but we did a better job.”
Vasiljevic and Dewan Huell tried to answer back, but Tyler Lydon took the game over. He scored nine-straight Orange points over the next 2:52, including a Dome rocking trey and slam on back-to-back drives. SU was up 61-47 with 7:10 remaining.
“We come to practice every day to work and try to get better,” Tyler Lydon said. “With that being said, I think we were able to accomplish that and it showed today. We just have to keep working hard and move forward.”
The crowd was as energetic as it’s been all year. There were several instances when the fans got up and cheered their team loudly. It wasn’t only when the Orange scored, but when they made hustle plays and key stops as well.
“The crowd was great,” Boeheim added. “The crowd has been good all year, but I thought they were really good tonight.”
Miami only scored eight more points the rest of the way, with six coming from Ja’Quan Newton. Syracuse’s 7-0 run from the 4:40 mark put the game away, giving them a 68-51 lead after a Gillon jumper with 2:01 to play.
The Orange went on to win 70-55 in their ACC home opener.
After many were assuming the worst for Syracuse after losing to Boston College on New Year’s Day, they got a much need win against a tough opponent. You could hear it in the players and even from Coach Boeheim after the game. There's a renewed sense of optimism.
“Teams have a certain edge when they’re trying to fight back from a loss, and especially, I think, on the road and the way they lost with Boston College making 16 three’s,” Larranega said. “I think it made the zone a little bit more active and we didn’t respond very well.”
“We’ve got a long way to go and we have a lot of work to do,” Boeheim said. “This was a very good first step, but it was just one step.”
Syracuse moves to 9-6 on the year, and 1-1 in ACC play. Miami falls to 11-3, and 1-1 in the conference. The Orange now looks to build upon tonight’s win with another home game against a tough Pittsburgh squad on Saturday.