Tyus Battle’s 34 points leads Syracuse 17-8 (6-6) to an important 78-70 win over Wake Forest 9-16 (2-11) on Sunday afternoon at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse held tough when Mitchell Wilbekin and the Demon Deacons caught fire and made 9 three pointers in the second half. The Orange lead dwindled to two points late in the game but Battle (pictured below) and company had enough to hold on for the win.Embed from Getty Images
Why Syracuse won
Battle’s huge game was the driving force behind the Syracuse win. Most importantly, his 24 second half points came at an opportune time as Wake Forest was unconscious from three point range in the second half and cut the Syracuse lead to two points with 4:20 to play. Without Battle’s offensive production, Wake Forest likely would have blown past the Orange in the second half for the victory.
In addition, Syracuse’s first half defense allowed the Orange to build a 10 point halftime lead and forced the Demon Deacons into 14 turnovers on the day. Although, Wake Forest looked great offensively in the second half, Syracuse held them to 25% and only 7 field goals in the first half.
Tyus Battle scored 7 early points including a step back three pointer that made his defender fall to Jim Boeheim Court. As a result, Syracuse got off to an early 7-2 lead.
Wake Forest big man Doral Moore (pictured below) was effective early and for the majority of the half as he got behind the Syracuse zone a few times for an alley-oop dunk and another thunderous dunk as Paschal Chukwu and Marek Dolezaj could only watch it happen. Moore finished the half with 8 points and 7 rebounds.Embed from Getty Images
Oshae Brissett played aggressively and scored 4 straight points for the Orange off of a couple free throws and a nice mid-range jumper to give the Orange an 11-8 lead.
The Syracuse defense looked great in the first half forcing Wake Forest into 7 turnovers. The Demon Deacons started the half shooting only 4-17 (23.5%) from the field and 0-7 from three point range.
Coach Jim Boeheim praised the team’s defensive effort during his press conference, “I thought the first half our defense was the best its been all year. We really covered them and chased them off spots.”
Bourama Sidibe’s status was uncertain today but he checked in for Paschal Chukwu midway through the half. He quickly scored a nice up and under lay-in and had a good block as well. He picked up 2 fouls which forced him to the bench for the last 4 minutes or so of the half.
Walk-on Braedon Bayer saw some action as another Orange player, Marek Dolezaj, picked up 2 fouls in the first half. Bayer saw over 5 minutes of action and didn’t add much but also didn’t do anything to draw the ire of coach Jim Boeheim.
Frank Howard and Tyus Battle hit back to back three pointers to extend the Syracuse lead to 22-13 with 5:32 left in the half.
Both teams exchanged buckets the last few minutes of the half and Wake Forest guard Bryant Crawford hit a 30 foot shot at the buzzer to cut the Syracuse lead to 31-21 at the half.
Battle led the Orange with 10 points and Frank Howard dished out 7 assists in the first 20 minutes.
Crawford started the second half with another three pointer to cut the game to 7 points but Syracuse responded with 9-2 run behind 6 points from Battle to get the lead back to 40-26.
The Orange defense continued to look stout as they continually forced the Demon Deacons into tough, contested shots whenever they would drive to the hoop.
Battle kept up his strong play in the second half with a 4 point play after getting fouled on a 3 point make, a steal and a dunk and some free throws. Battle scored 14 points in the first 9 minutes of the half.
The Syracuse defense started to fall apart a little bit as Wake Forest started to rain three pointers with about 11 minutes left in the game. Over a 3 minute span, Mitchell Wilbekin (pictured below) hit 4 three pointers and the Demon Deacons cut the Syracuse lead to 61-55 with 7:28 remaining.Embed from Getty Images
Wake Forest started the half 8-10 from beyond the arc and continued to attack the Syracuse zone as Crawford drew a foul and made two free throws. Moore also got behind the zone for a dunk.
After a Battle turnover, Crawford scored on a mid-range jumper to cut the Syracuse lead to 2 points with only 4:20 to play.
Howard didn’t help the Orange as he missed four free throws down the stretch to keep Wake Forest in the game.
Chukwu (pictured below) played some of his best basketball of the season in the final 5 minutes of the game as he hit a huge lay-in as he got fouled to give Syracuse a 5 point lead with under 2 minutes to play. Chukwu finished the game with 7 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks.Embed from Getty Images
Ultimately, a huge block by Chukwu led to a break away Battle dunk that sealed the 78-70 win for the Orange.
Battle finished with 34 points on 10-18 shooting and 11-13 shooting from the free throw line.
This was a much needed win for Syracuse as it improves the team’s record to 17-8 and 6-6 in ACC play. Syracuse is now tied for 8th in the conference with six games left in the regular season. If Syracuse can finish the regular season 3-3 and pick up a win over #21 North Carolina, #9 Duke or #16 Clemson, you’ve got to feel pretty good about the Orange’s chances of making the tournament. An additional win in the ACC tournament would almost guarantee them a spot in the Big Dance. Going 3-3 down the stretch and winning an ACC game is a tall task given how inconsistent Syracuse can be and the depth issues the team will face the rest of the season.
Syracuse faces North Carolina State at 9:00pm on Wednesday at the Carrier Dome. North Carolina State is 16-9 (6-6 in the ACC) on the season and is a tournament team according to many NCAA Tournament projections. The Wolfpack are led by sophomore center Omer Yurtseven (pictured below) who is averaging 13.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Watch the game on ACC Network or the WatchESPN website or app.Embed from Getty Images