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Saturday, Nov 11, 2017 at 12:03 am

Men’s Basketball Wins Season Opener Over Cornell

By Matt Liberman

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — With his team only up 11-6 just eight minutes into the first half, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim called for full court pressure. Cornell broke the press, easily sailing a pass over the SU defense for what should have been an easy dunk. Steve Julian elevated but wound up tumbling to the ground with the ball next to him. Orange freshman Bourama Sidibe tracked down Julian and erased any potential for two easy points with a swift block.

“If we would’ve pressed last year,” Boeheim said, “that first play, Cornell would’ve had a dunk. (Sidibe) makes an unbelievable block on a pretty good athlete. That’s a big thing.”

After Tyus Battle scored one minute later for the Orange, SU guard Geno Thorpe stole the ball from a full-court trap and Marek Dolezaj turned it into two more points on a put-back.

Using its size, the Orange dominated Friday night’s season-opener against Cornell in a 77-45 blowout win. Many have questioned SU’s talent after losing six of its top seven scorers from last year. But one thing is for certain: Syracuse is big.

The average height for the eight rotation players in the win was just under 6’8”. The tallest player on Cornell was Boeheim’s son Jimmy…at 6’8”.

It was evident from the opening tip as 7’2” center Paschal Chukwu towered over his 6’8” opponent. But that didn’t affect Cornell in the opening two minutes. The Big Red jumped out on top, 5-2, with all five points coming from Jimmy. At that point, Dad saw enough and called an SU timeout.

The Orange dominated from that point on, especially on the glass and in the zone. In the first half, the lengthy 2-3 zone forced two Cornell turnovers on shot-clock violations.

Sidibe’s block on Julian was the Big Red’s only chance all game to score on the fast break. While both sides struggled to score in transition, Cornell didn’t score at all.

“It helps us a lot knowing Paschal and Bourama are back there blocking shots,” Oshae Brissett said. “That’s the third time someone’s tried to dunk it on (Sidibe), and he’s going to block it every time.”

Syracuse outrebounded its opponent by 18 and earned 21 second-chance points. The Orange was especially dangerous with Frank Howard and Battle playing at the top of the zone, along with Sidibe, Dolejaz and Brissett playing down low. Howard, the smallest of the five, is 6’5” and was able to blow by 6’2” Matt Morgan of Cornell.

In the 32-point win over Cornell, Syracuse’s ability to disrupt its opponents through size and length made the difference. The Orange finished with six blocks and twelve steals, while forcing Cornell to play nearly an entire game in a half-court set.

“(Size) helps any defense,” Boeheim said. “It’s very important in basketball.”