Syracuse overcomes slow start to beat Carleton

Syracuse overcomes slow start to beat Carleton

Published: October 30, 2019
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Marek Dolezaj (21) goes for a layup during the game at the Carrier Dome on Oct 27, 2019.

“And now for the playing of the Canadian National Anthem,” said the Dome’s public address announcer to the 4,778 in attendance Tuesday night.

Everyone stood. The anthem’s background music played. But unlike during its American counterpart, there was no one to sing along.

Few, if any, Carleton Ravens fans made the two-hour trip south from Ottawa to cheer on the Ravens as they faced Syracuse in the team’s final preseason game. Syracuse was the fourth, but toughest, Division I American team the Ravens would face this year, and they were looking to move to 3-1. Coming off a dominant victory against DII Daemon College, the Orange had a final opportunity to prepare for the season, with all eyes looking to next week’s season opener against Virginia. Early on in Tuesday’s game, however, it looked like the absent Carleton fan base was going to miss out on an upset.

When Elijah Hughes hit his second three-pointer just 2:06 into the game the exhibition game, the modest crowd roared. For the rest of the opening 10 minutes, the Orange had little to cheer about. The Ravens were getting their way shooting, on defense, and on the glass. Coach Boeheim was not pleased with his team’s early performance.

“They got some easy shots, easy baskets,” Boeheim said. “But that’s what happens when your defense isn’t that good.”

While Buddy Boeheim cut the lead to four, eight minutes in, a Syracuse Cheerleader watching from the sidelines turned to her left.

“Carleton is the best team in Canada,” she said.

Her neighbor was unconvinced by the excuse for the Orange’s slow start.

“Yeah, but still,” she replied.

As the winner of 14 of the last 17 Canadian national championships attempted to fend off Syracuse’s attempt to regain a lead, both teams’ defenses tightened. But when Syracuse’s shots began to fall, Carleton’s stopped.

Raven fifth-year guard Yasiin Joseph missed a contested corner three, falling back onto the hardwood and looking to referee Ted Valentine for a call that would not come.

“Get up,” Valentine said.

Carleton would get no favors, but they clearly did not come across the border for a casual exhibition game. Playing to win, Ravens coach Taffe Charles relied on a short bench the entire evening, giving over five minutes of playing time to only seven players.

Boeheim spread minutes around more liberally, with 10 players seeing significant playing time. The Orange coach said the game’s minute management was no indication on how he will be using his players in their season debut against Virginia, or over the course of the year.

“We’re going to play the guys it takes to win,” Boeheim said. “If it’s six, that’s where we’ll be, if it’s five, that’s where we’ll be.”

Syracuse’s minutes leader, and the team’s highest rebounder and scorer was junior forward Elijah Hughes. Finishing with 15 points and 10 rebounds, the ball found its way into Hughes’ hands-on nearly every offensive possession, even bringing the ball up the floor himself sometimes.

Charged with guarding Hughes was Carleton guard Marcus Anderson. Despite a three-inch height disadvantage, Anderson did his best to frustrate Hughes and show why he is a two-time Canadian college defensive player of the year.

“He made it difficult at times,” Hughes said of Anderson. “But you know, gotta find a way to get my shot over.”

Led by Hughes, the offense put up a total of 77 points, but it was Carleton’s inability to find their shots that handed the Orange victory. After the 7:44 mark of the first half, the Ravens went 1/15 from beyond the arc and finished 4/24 from three on the night.

“If they had made three or four more threes,” Boeheim said. “That would’ve been a close game.”

When Syracuse big man Bourama Sidibe checked into the game with 13:20 remaining, the rebounding advantage the Ravens had in the first half began to disappear. Sidibe quickly flexed his 6’10 height that measured him taller than any Raven that saw action Tuesday.

The junior grabbed offensive and defensive rebounds, including one he kicked back out to the three-point line. One pass later, and the ball found its way into the basket to bring the Orange lead to 20 with only a few minutes left. After fixing rebounding and defensive issues that gave Carleton opportunities for early success, the once-close game quickly became a blowout.

A television timeout with Syracuse up 19, and 1:04 left to play signaled to both coaches an opportunity to empty their benches, and to the Dome crowd the chance to file out.