Syracuse men’s basketball moves to 2-0 after beating Niagara 75-45
SU men's basketball thumps Niagara 75-45
Despite missing nearly half the bench, Syracuse’s young players came out strong and defeated Niagara 75-45.
Notably missing from Thursday’s game was Buddy Boeheim and seven additional team members, some identified as possible exposures through contact tracing, leaving just 10 players taking the court for Syracuse.
While the Orange lost a significant portion of their team, there was a familiar face on the opposing bench in Thursday’s game. For Niagara head coach Greg Paulus, the last minute addition of his team to Syracuse’s schedule meant a homecoming of sorts. In 2009, as Syracuse football’s starting quarterback, Paulus led his team to an overtime loss against Minnesota in front of 48,617 fans. On Thursday, he returned to lead the Purple Eagles against his alma mater in front of exactly zero fans.
The missing pieces changed the playing landscape for the Orange, who saw freshman guard Kadary Richmond step up off the bench, starting in place of Buddy Boeheim, and Quincy Guerrier spend more time in the backcourt.
It took time for play to get underway. After winning the initial faceoff, play was blown dead while Joseph Girard III dribbled up court due to a failure to start the shot clock. Guerrier put up the first points of the game, sinking a layup for two and scoring on the extra penalty point.
As soon as Niagara gained possession and moved past half court, play was blown dead again as the shot clock stayed frozen at 30. Raheem Solomon tied the game early for the Purple Eagles with a three pointer of his own. Kobi Nwandu secured a short lead for Niagara but Alan Griffin responded with a three of his own just seconds later.
Two good free throws from Griffin and a layup from Richmond put Syracuse up 19-14 with 11:49 remaining in the half, the widest gap of the game thus far. The Orange continued to widen the gap, thanks to more free throws and a tip-in on his own shot from Richmond.
Freshman forward Woody Newton checked in for Guerrier and fouled just twenty seconds into his debut for the Orange. He made up for it quickly, scoring three points on his first possession, then drawing a foul after pulling down the rebound on his second three-point attempt.
After a strong start holding their own against the Orange, the Purple Eagles looked flustered, going just under six minutes without any points which allowed Syracuse to jump to a 39-16 lead. After nine missed attempts, Touba Traore finally got Niagara back on the board by scoring on one of two free throw attempts. Just 35 seconds later, Justin Roberts netted a three pointer for the Purple Eagles, but his team failed to capitalize on the momentum. Despite Niagara sinking a couple more threes, Syracuse went into the half leading 42-28.
Hurting Niagara early on was their inability to shoot accurately. They had close to double Syracuse’s three-point attempts but yielded the same result – making 5-24 compared to the Orange’s 5-11 from the three-point line. While the Purple Eagles failed on three pointers, Syracuse outscored Niagara up close, making 18 in the paint compared to 8 from their opponent.
Syracuse continued their dominant play into the second half, and didn’t allow many opportunities for Niagara to make up the difference. With the Orange up 65-36 with 9:25 left in the game, Newton, John Bol Ajak and Robert Braswell came in. Missing teammates opened up an opportunity for new players to get on the court, with Braswell being the only player to have playing time out of those three this season – just three minutes against Bryant in the season opener.
During a late timeout from Niagara, Girard checked out for Syracuse, ruining his chance to be the only Orange player in Thursday’s game to play the full 40. Frank Anselem tagged in with under four minutes left to play, leaving just one Syracuse player on the already shortened bench without playing time against Niagara.
With Bol Ajak, Richmond, Newton, Anselem and Braswell in the lineup, Syracuse finished off Niagara with an all-underclassmen line; four players are freshmen, with Braswell being a redshirt sophomore. In the final minutes, the young group added six points to the Orange’s total and allowed six points.
Syracuse won the game easily, 75-45.
The Orange went 27-60 on field goal attempts and made 21.7 percent from the three-point line. Syracuse also netted 76 percent from the free throw line. They continued to dominate in the paint in the second half, finishing the game outscoring Niagara 40-22 up close. The Orange also combined for 51 rebounds, 11 steals and 6 blocks.
Guerrier led the team with 23 points, going 9-10 on field goals. He led the team in rebounds as well, pulling in 13. Richmond stepped up in his new role, coming in behind Guerrier with 16 points and forcing four steals.
“Quincy was really good tonight, physical,” said head coach Jim Boeheim. “He can shoot the three…he just has to get some confidence.”
Despite the win, Boeheim wasn’t completely happy with his team’s performance and blamed the lack of practice due to pandemic-related restrictions.
The Orange will have a shorter turn around to their next game, hosting the Rider University Broncs on at 7 p.m. Saturday.