Syracuse had a week to ponder its first loss of the season. The Orange nearly thought about it too long.
C.J. Fair scored 13 points, Trevor Cooney added 12, all in the second half to key a late surge, and ninth-ranked Syracuse beat Alcorn State 57-36 on Saturday night in the final game of the Gotham Classic.
”Our defense was good. I think sometimes what happens when you lose your first game you come back and you start thinking about things,” Orange coach Jim Boeheim said after the 901st win of his career moved him within one of Bob Knight for second place all time among Division I men’s coaches. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski leads with 939 wins. ”I think we got frustrated offensively, really, most of the night.”
Especially in the second half.
The fans in the Carrier Dome don’t sit until Syracuse scores its first basket of each period, and they were still standing when Cooney finally drained a 3-pointer with 11:20 left after the Orange had missed nine consecutive shots and watched their 16-point halftime lead dwindle to seven.
”We’re coming off a loss, coming off of a break,” Cooney said. ”We’ve been practicing really well. At least we were there defensively, and we know that we’re a good offensive team. We know that we’ve got guys who can score and who can shoot, guys who can rebound offensively. That stuff’s going to come for us. We know that.”
Not on this night.
James Southerland and Brandon Triche, the Orange’s top two scorers at 15 points and 14.7, finished a combined 2-for-13 shooting for eight points. Syracuse finished 3-of-15 from behind the arc and 12-of-28 on free throws, a second straight lackluster performance in both, and shot 21-of-56 (37.5 percent) for the game.
”We did struggle today. I think this is one of those off days,” Fair said. ”I don’t have no excuse for it, just one of those days it’s not clicking.”
Syracuse (11-1), coming off an 83-79 loss to Temple at Madison Square Garden, increased its home winning streak to 31 games, longest in the nation. Alcorn State (2-13) dropped to 0-9 on the road in losing its ninth in a row.
The Braves self-destructed with 28 turnovers that led to 26 points for the Orange and were pounded on the offensive glass 21-5.
”We have a lot of new guys on the team, first time in this atmosphere, and I think they just got a little jittery,” said Marquiz Baker, who led the Braves with 15 points. ”Just jitters, emotions.”
Point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who had only six assists against Temple, breaking a five-game streak in which he had registered at least 10, again finished with six to boost his season total to 119. His teammates only contributed four more as the Orange finished with just 10 assists.
”I think it’s us. We’re not clicking as a team right now,” said Carter-Williams, who had five turnovers and five points and took only three shots. ”I’m not sure what it is. I don’t have an answer. I don’t know what’s wrong with our offense. I guess I wasn’t as aggressive as I should have been. I don’t know.”
Syracuse led by 16 at halftime, and it was a struggle to get there. The Orange were 12-of-33 from the floor, including 1-of-9 as they continued their woeful long-range shooting. They were 2-of-12 in the loss to Temple.
The Braves weren’t much better, going 1-of-8 on 3-pointers. Alcorn State also was called for two shot-clock violations as their clock strategy backfired several times, and the Braves committed 17 turnovers as Syracuse pressed a good portion of the opening period.
After Baker’s baseline runner at the shot-clock buzzer gave Alcorn State a 6-4 lead, Syracuse went on a sloppy 19-4 run.
Southerland hit a 3-pointer for an 11-6 lead and then committed a foul, Cooney missed a 3, and Jerami Grant missed twice.
No problem. The Braves committed back-to-back turnovers and were called for a shot-clock violation.
After Grant completed a three-point play to boost the lead to 19-10 midway through the period, both teams continued their bumbling play.
Baker hit a 3 after the shot clock expired and the Braves were then called for two fouls and lost the ball twice. At the other end, Triche missed and Southerland was way off the mark on a 3 before the Orange lost the ball out of bounds.
Dajuan Coleman’s hook shot at the buzzer gave Syracuse a 32-16 lead at the break. Then the Orange went into their funk in the second half. That gave Alcorn State a chance to get back in it, and the Braves capitalized.
Baker scored eight consecutive points — a pair of 3s and a steal and layup — and a reverse layup by Stephane Raquil moved the Braves within 36-29 with 11:58 left.
When Cooney finally broke through with that 3, even that came after the ball squirted to him in the left corner off the right foot of Triche. Southerland then passed to Fair for a dunk and the Orange moved back in front by 12 points as they went on a 19-5 spurt.
Cooney followed with a pair of driving layups and nailed a quick 3 from the right corner in a four-minute span to give Syracuse a 19-point cushion with 4:46 left.
”That was frustrating,” Fair said. ”We started off the second half bad and we let the other team make a few 3s and get back in the game quick.
”Once we had our backs against the wall, that’s when we started coming to play. But you can’t keep switching it on and off like that.”