Dominant Second Half Lifts Syracuse over Arkansas State
By Nicole Weaving
CitrusTV Men’s Basketball Reporter
With under five minutes to play, the wave began to circulate around the Carrier Dome crowd. The Orange fans had been silent most of the game until Jim Boeheim’s squad began building a sizable lead in the second half. Now, Syracuse was up by more than 20 points, so fans could finally sit back and enjoy watching the team they missed the past two games in their back-to-back losses to Old Dominion and Buffalo.
Syracuse (8-4, 0-0 Atlantic Coast) would end up crushing Arkansas State (5-7, 0-0 Sun Belt), putting up their second highest point total of the season in the 82-52 win. However, it took an entire half for the Orange to find their stride.
“We really didn’t have good movement against their defense. We took a couple bad shots,” Jim Boeheim said in regard to the first half.
The Red Wolves came out aggressive, ready to challenge the Orange offensively and they did just that. Arkansas State forced three turnovers, scored six fastbreak points, grabbed eight rebounds in the first 20 minutes and seemed to have the Orange frazzled.
Elijah Hughes breathed life back into the ‘Cuse, nailing two shots from beyond the arc that would eventually lead the Orange to a two-point halftime lead. Boeheim used that time in the locker room to regroup and remind his team of the game plan.
“Stop the shooter. Get on the shooter’s hands. Make it tough on them. Go down there and crash the boards,” Tyus Battle said about Boeheim’s speech.
That speech seemed to immediately hit the hearts of the Orange, who stepped up right away with two successful three-point plays from Oshae Brissett and Hughes. This would kick off a nine-point scoring run in the first six minutes.
“Second half we played with more sense of urgency,” said Elijah Hughes. “We got after it more. We wanted it more and we wanted to get out to a big lead, as we did.”
This came offensively as Syracuse shot 53.6% from the field in the second half compared to 39.1% in the first. Defensively, SU grabbed 8 steals and 6 blocks, turning the tables to frustrate the Red Wolves offense.
“[Ty Cockfield] was hitting a lot of threes. We wanted to get over top-of-the-ball screens and outside screens to try to make it tough on him,” Battle said. “I think that really slowed down their offense.”
Cockfield came into the matchup looking for his ninth 20-point performance this season and seemed on pace after he scored 13 in the first half. The Syracuse defense was able to step up in the second half, holding him the just four points in the second period to finish with 17 on the day. When Cockfield started to struggle, the Red Wolves as a whole began to look lost, costing them the game in the Carrier Dome.
Despite coming out victorious, Boeheim was still disgruntled with his team’s performance.
“We’re not a good team yet.,” Boeheim said. “We hope to get there, but we’re not there, by a long shot.”
The Orange will have a week off to rest and celebrate the holidays before returning to the Dome on December 29th to finish off the non-conference slate against St. Bonaventure.
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