Syracuse overcomes struggles in 84-70 win over Morehead State

first_img Comments An unfamiliar situation for Syracuse this early into the season emerged Saturday night: A 14-point lead quickly dissipated to a one-point game. Morehead State stood at the free-throw line, shooting a 1-and-1, with the opportunity to take its first lead of the game. The ball bounced off the rim the Orange took control of a possession that ended in an acrobatic one-handed righty layup off the glass from Oshae Brissett.The theme played throughout the contest: Morehead State would keep itself in striking distance, yet never break through. The Orange struggled in the first half against the Eagles’ aggressive defense and its full-court press proved ineffective. But a strong start to the second half eventually pulled No. 16 Syracuse (2-0) away from Morehead State (1-2) inside the Carrier Dome, as the Orange downed the Eagles, 84-70.Yes, the Orange downed its lesser opponent that ranks outside the top 200 among Division I teams, per Kenpom.com. Still, it wasn’t pretty by any means.“As a team,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said, “we’re just not where we need to be.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textJalen Carey played eight first-half minutes and turned the ball over three times. Morehead State clung to the freshman point guard, putting enough pressure to lead to the mistakes. It was just Carey’s second game as a member of the Orange, as he’s still nursing back to full health after an ankle sprain, which contributed to the turnovers, Boeheim said.“You’re playing against a fast guard,” Boeheim added, “you need to have those practices. He just wasn’t prepared for that kind of defensive effort.”Unlike in its season opener, the Orange didn’t benefit from a full-court press. Morehead State’s A.J. Hicks repeatedly found holes and pushed tempo, and Boeheim aborted the tactic.And while Morehead State shot a mediocre 33 percent from the field in the first half —SU shot 45 percent — the Eagles’ aggressiveness caused enough turnovers to keep the game within striking distance.By halftime, Syracuse held a six-point lead over Morehead State but turned the ball over 11 times to the latter’s three. Over a third of the Eagles’ points had come as a direct result from SU’s offensive miscues.“Scrappy guards, they get after it on defense,” junior forward Elijah Hughes said. “We just got to be better taking care of the ball, especially in the first half. And we got to shoot the ball better.”The second half began much like the first for the Orange. After the two teams traded baskets, SU went on a 12-0 run started by Hughes’ and-1. Tyus Battle followed up with one of his own, too.The duo of Battle and Hughes bounced back from a weak first game, where they combined for 15 points on 5-of-18 shooting. Both players shot 7-of-15 from the field, with Battle edging out Hughes in points, 23 to 21.After that 12-0 run from Syracuse, the Orange led by eight or more the rest of the way. And while the game ended with a double-digit win, the biggest weakness of the team early in the season was on full display.Syracuse still lacks a true point guard, with Frank Howard still out with an injury. Carey has played limited minutes — he totaled 15 on Saturday — but has struggled to get anything going. He finished with no points on 0-for-2 shooting and four turnovers.“Jalen is still learning, getting to 100 (percent),” Brissett said. “But that’s a freshman coming to the league, it’s only going to get tougher.”Carey still hasn’t fully adjusted to the faster play of college basketball. He did, after all, just finish his second-ever college game because he missed three weeks with injury. And that’s with not fully participating in practice while working back to full strength.Meanwhile, Howard Washington, SU’s other point guard, barely played last season before tearing his ACL. Now healthy, he didn’t even check in on Saturday.Howard is a necessity for the Orange, which lacks a floor general that can both handle full- and half-court pressure while also facilitating the offense. The senior guard has seen three years of college basketball and tangible improvement with each passing season.“Frank knows what we do, sees what’s going on,” Boeheim said at media day on Oct. 12. “I thought coming in off the summer and fall, Frank was playing the best I’ve seen him play there.”While the Orange may be able to edge out wins against teams like Eastern Washington and Morehead State, Howard will be the difference maker when competition gets tougher.“We’re better, but to get much better we need to get Jalen on board and Frank back playing,” Boeheim said. “That’s when we’ll have a chance to be what we’d like to be.” Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Published on November 10, 2018 at 9:36 pm Contact Charlie: [email protected] | @charliedisturcolast_img

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