Syracuse rides 2nd-half surge past No. 16 Ohio State

first_img Published on November 28, 2018 at 9:40 pm Contact Matthew: | @MatthewGut21 COLUMBUS, Ohio — From the top of Value City Arena, up in section 306, several dozen fans in orange rose to their feet. Their applause could hardly be heard across the building. Syracuse had pulled away, ever so slightly.Three sections below, amid the loud roars and white towels whipping in the air, Tyus Battle found a moment of calm. Up six with a minute left, he crossed over at the top of the key. He eyed an opening down the left side of the lane. Two dribbles left and a floater high fell through off the glass followed. The crowd fell into an anxious hush. Hundreds of Buckeye fans filed for the exits.What happened Wednesday night demonstrated the progression of a rested, reloaded Syracuse. Battle, in his best all-around performance of his junior season, scored a game-high 20 points. In its 72-62 victory over No. 16 Ohio State (6-1), the Orange (4-2) defense played its best game of the season, which doubles as its best performance since March. Despite three players fouling out, Syracuse held on to tally an early road win.“We really needed this,” said Battle, who added a pair of assists and three boards.Syracuse, in its first unfavorable venue since a Round of 32 win over Michigan State in March, entered the break down, 31-29. But sophomore forward Oshae Brissett (14 points, two 3s) and freshman point guard Jalen Carey (4-for-4 from the line down the stretch, plus three assists) initiated a second-half surge that sent SU past the Buckeyes, a No. 5 seed in last season’s NCAA Tournament.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSyracuse head coach Jim Boeheim couldn’t put a finger on what led to SU’s 72-point outing, other than an 11-for-24 showing from 3-point range and a good bit of defense.“This was the first time I’ve seen us play the way we need to play,” Boeheim said. “That’s a good sign.”Senior point guard Frank Howard, who scored eight points, said the defense energized an SU offense and lifted them out of a seesaw battle. “Second half, we felt a lot more comfortable taking contact,” he said. “We’re all locked in on both ends, and the shots started to fall.”The victory functions as a boost to Syracuse’s already-underway NCAA Tournament resume, which factors in nonconference performance. The win against No. 16 Ohio State, on the road, also bumps the Orange to two games above .500 and provides belief that SU could enter ACC play at 11-2, given it takes care of the remaining seven nonconference opponents on its schedule.Howard is working back into the lineup following ankle surgery. From the top of the 2-3 zone, he didn’t provide the activeness that made him last year’s ACC steals-per-game leader. He said he still needs about a week before he’ll be 100 percent. But he did cover ground and hit a jumper that silenced the OSU crowd in the second half. He did call plays from the top of the key in a more spaced-out Orange approach. And he did provide security at the point, committing zero turnovers.The win is all the more encouraging given SU’s frontcourt fended off a formidable OSU team. The defense, despite foul trouble turning some of the game into a free-throw contest, became more active. This coincided with OSU falling ice-cold from deep — 6 for 22 from 3 in the game — in part because the SU defense crept up a couple of feet higher. Just a couple.“We guarded the 3-point line better than we have all year,” Boeheim said. “Somehow after that bad start, we did start to defend.”Over the past three seasons, Syracuse’s nonconference road performances have proven to be indicators of not only how the Orange does in conference play, but also whether Syracuse makes the NCAA Tournament. A title victory at the Battle 4 Atlantis became a resume boost on Selection Sunday in 2016. A road loss at Wisconsin, plus other nonconference losses to St. John’s, Connecticut and Georgetown, were key factors in SU’s NIT fate during the 2016-17 season. Last December, the Orange lost to Kansas but picked up a meaningful road win at Georgetown.So while it’s only one game in November, the outcome Wednesday provides a signal of SU’s capability to play in road environments. The OSU victory is the only road matchup of Syracuse’s nonconference slate, and the Orange don’t play away from home again until conference play begins Jan. 5 at Notre Dame.Against the Buckeyes, the Orange came to life midway through the second half. With 11:36 to play and the score even at 45, back-to-back Carey penetrations-and-kicks generated layups for forwards Brissett and Elijah Hughes. Hughes, who dropped 18 on 4-for-9 shooting from deep, drilled a 3-pointer from the wing. The SU bench stood up. Next, Battle hit a jumper and soon SU had a 10-point lead, the momentum in its favor.Despite the towel waves, the gap stayed there for good.With a few seconds left, the only unified noise came from one place way upstairs: section 306. Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Commentslast_img read more