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Thursday, Dec 19, 2019 at 12:58 am

Syracuse Men’s Basketball Avoids Upset vs. Oakland 74-62

By Cameron Macaulay

CitrusTV Men’s Basketball Reporter

Despite low fan turnout and winter weather outside, Syracuse (6-5, 1-1 Atlantic Coast) contested a back-and-forth game against Oakland (5-7, 0-1 Horizon) Wednesday night in the Dome. The Orange took a 4-2 lead with 16:21 remaining in the first half. That lead survived multiple runs by Oakland, and Syracuse escaped with a 72-64 win.

The Golden Grizzlies did most of the damage against The Orange from inside, scoring 30 points inside the paint and getting an additional 20 from the free throw line. Seniors Brad Brechting (6’11”, 240 lbs) and Xavier Hill-Mais (6’7”, 261 lbs) took it inside the Syracuse zone early and often, tallying 20 points and 16 points respectively.

“We just are not able to defend the inside this year,” said Head Coach Jim Boeheim. “We have trouble with those guys, and we’re always going to have trouble with those guys” Syracuse has struggled to defend bigger players in previous games, giving up 19 Points to Oklahoma State’s Yor Anei, 15 Points to Penn State’s Mike Watkins, and 23 Points to Iowa’s Luka Garza.

“We had to make sure we got touches at the rim every time,” said Oakland Head Coach Greg Kampe. “For the most part we did a pretty good job of that.” Brechting and Hill-Mais went 12-12 from the free throw line and registered 6 Rebounds each, more than any Syracuse player except Bourama Sidibe who had 13 boards but only two free throw attempts.

On offense, Syracuse started both halves slow. The Orange made their first shot three minutes and 32 seconds into the game and took three minutes and 33 seconds to make their first second half basket.

“If we would have had a better offensive game, it wouldn’t be as big of a problem,” Boeheim said. Syracuse shot just 11-34 (32.4%) from three-point range, their fifth-lowest percentage of the season. “Eleven, in a game like this that’s got to be the least number of threes that we can make. We need to make, really, more,” Boeheim said.

Almost all of Syracuse’s offensive production from three players. Elijah Hughes led all scorers with 23 points, Joe Girard III scored 20 points, marking the second time he has scored at least 20, and Buddy Boeheim scored 11 straight during a first half run to finish with 14 points. The trio shot 31 threes, while the rest of the team combined to go 0-3 from deep.

“[Marek Dolezaj and Quincy Guerrier] are shooting ten percent or less from the three-point line,” Boeheim said. “When do you finally get it into your head that I am not going to take these anymore.” Dolezaj and Guerrier are shooting 16.7% and 11.8% from three respectively.

The game tipped off at 8:00 eastern, and the combination of bad weather and most students being on winter break led to a lower fan count and quieter atmosphere in the Dome than usual.

“It’s sickening, really, to see that,” Boeheim said. “We can’t get some help here; we desperately need it…that’s the whole purpose of playing at home.”

Syracuse looks to close out its non-conference schedule with two wins, first against North Florida (7-6, 0-0 Atlantic Sun) on Saturday at 6:00 P.M, then vs. Niagara (2-7, 0-0 Metro Atlantic) on December 28.

cjmacaul@syr.edu | @CJMacaulay