SU men fall to Baylor in first round of NCAA tournament

SU men fall to Baylor in first round of tournament

Elijah Hughes scored a career-high 25 points in the loss.
Published: March 22, 2019

For the first time since 2006, the Syracuse men’s basketball team lost its first game in the NCAA Tournament. The 8-seeded Orange were defeated by 9-seed Baylor 78-69 in the Round of 64 Thursday night in Salt Lake City.

The defeat comes just a day after news broke that senior point guard Frank Howard was suspended “indefinitely” for violating athletic department policy.

Everything was clicking for SU in the first half. The team shot over 50 percent from the field and three-point land and scored an uncharacteristic 37 points before the break.

Despite the lethal offensive attack, the defense just was not there Thursday. Baylor hit 10 threes before halftime and added six more in the second half while holding a 54 percent mark for the game. Makai Mason led the way for the Bears with 22 points while Elijah Hughes posted a career-high 25 points with six of his seven made field goals being from beyond the arc.

The Orange had one of its best offensive performances of the year in the loss and head coach Jim Boeheim acknowledged that, but he also noticed that the defense wasn’t up to par.

“Both teams shot the ball well; they made some at the end and we missed some at the end,” Boeheim said. “We couldn’t stop their offense, and they really couldn’t stop ours.”

SU trailed 38-37 after the first half. The game was knotted up at 57, then Baylor heated up and went on an 11-2 run where the Orange didn’t score a field goal for nearly five minutes. Syracuse would get within three points with 3:23 left, but the Bears would not surrender the lead and held on for the win.

“We got off to a really bad start and dug ourselves back into it,” Boeheim said. “We come back the whole game from the [first] half, but we really didn’t do enough on the defensive end.”

Plenty of speculation surrounds junior guard Tyus Battle as to whether he played his final game for Syracuse. After the game, Battle said that he is not making any decisions at this time. He finished the game with 16 points and three assists on 6-15 shooting.

“We didn’t have the consistency from the beginning, missing Frank for a long time and then obviously at the end, so it wasn’t the year I think it could have been,” Boeheim said of the season. “All in all — considering everything — I would say it’s been a solid year.”

As Syracuse heads home, Baylor stays in Salt Lake City and takes on the 1-seed in the West Region Gonzaga on Saturday.

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is a sports writer for The NewsHouse, as well as a WAER and WJPZ radio personality and a host for CitrusTV’s “Unpeeled.”