Syracuse men’s basketball narrowly wins season opener against Bryant
SU basketball beats Bryant 85-84
Syracuse men’s basketball opened their season in the Carrier Dome with an 85-84 victory over Bryant University of the Northeast Conference. The Orange entered the week uncertain of the status of head coach Jim Boeheim, but he took the sideline after recovering from COVID-19 and led the team to a 1-0 start.
Following the COVID-19 scare and numerous missed practices, Jim Boeheim took the blame for the close victory against the large underdog but was proud of the team for pulling off the win.
“This is my fault,” Boeheim said. “We never should’ve played this game. We dug a big hole. I thought we had unbelievable character to get back in there.”
Boeheim said the COVID-19 restrictions placed on the team were “foolish” because of one positive test and said the team would not suit up to play a tough ACC opponent under similar restrictions.
“We’ve got to figure this out, or the season will be destroyed. Period,” Boeheim said.
On the court, the game was a tale of two halves for the teams. SU shot 27.3% from three and 32.6% from the field in the first half. Bryant hit nine 3-pointers on 47.4% from three and 52.8% from the field. The Bulldogs backcourt helped stave off early attempts at an Orange comeback. Bryant guard Christ Childs connected five 3-pointers off the bench and led both teams in scoring with 15 first half points.
In the second half, Bryant regressed to the mean by hitting 4/18 of their threes while going 34.3% from the field. The Orange shot 51.7% from the field and outscored the Bulldogs 41-33 in the second half.
The opening tipoff went the way of Bryant as did the scoring early in the game. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 6-0 lead and held it for a majority of the first half. The Syracuse frontcourt was dominant on the glass, out-rebounding Bryant 27-23 overall and 9-0 on offense.
Syracuse forced 10 first half turnovers and added six steals. Senior forward Marek Dolezaj led the team with three steals and contributed 10 points. Junior guard Buddy Boeheim led the team with 14 points, connecting on 3/7 of his threes.
As well as Dolezaj played offensively, Boeheim praised his defensive prowess for the team’s success on the defensive interior.
Boeheim was animated on the sideline as the Bulldogs went on a 10-0 run at the end of the first half, but Buddy Boeheim was able to temporarily stop the bleeding for Syracuse with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the first half with the Orange trailing 51-44.
Sophomore guard Joseph Girard III struggled early for the Orange with two turnovers and 11 consecutive missed shots to start the game. He made a 3-pointer in the second half to end the drought, but he shot 2/9 on the afternoon from three.
Boeheim said that the team expects more from Girard moving forward and still has confidence in him.
“Joe had a nightmare game,” Boeheim said. “He couldn’t do anything right, but I stuck with him.”
The second half opened with a new offensive strategy from the Orange. The team worked the ball inside more often and cut the Bulldogs lead to 65-62 within the first eight minutes. Sophomore forward Quincy Guerrier scored quick baskets at the rim to cut into the lead.
Senior Bourama Sidibe played just four minutes in the contest following an injury. Boeheim said that he would be undergoing an MRI tonight. The 6’10’’ center contributed two points on four free throws.
The other starters for the Orange were instrumental in their second half comeback. Dolezaj finished the game with 20-6-9 with five steals. Guerrier finished with 15-12-1, and Buddy Boeheim led all scorers with 23 points.
Off the bench, Alan Griffin led the team in minutes and notched 14 points and a game-high 12 boards in his first game with the Orange. His highlight of the night was a tomahawk alley-oop at full extension behind his head in the second half that tied the score at 80.
Childs led the Bulldogs in points with 18, but Syracuse limited him to just three second-half points. Hall Elisias added eight rebounds and two blocks to Bryant’s effort but fouled out of the game with just under four minutes remaining.
Down the stretch of the game, scoring went back and forth as neither team managed to pull away. The Orange had multiple opportunities to put the game away with one-and-one trips to the line while Bryant was intentionally fouling, but the team came up empty.
With 24.6 seconds remaining, Bryant advanced the ball and cut the lead to one with a layup. The Bulldogs got the ball back down one with 12 seconds but were unable to connect on multiple last second shots as the clock expired.
Syracuse escaped the first test of the season with a narrow victory in the Carrier Dome. SU will take the court at home again on Dec. 3, at 7 p.m. against Niagara University.