Syracuse (18-9, 7-7 ACC) picked up a much needed 62-55 win at Miami (18-8, 7-7 ACC) on Saturday. With the Orange’s tournament hopes on the line, Frank Howard and Marek Dolezaj stepped up in the second half to spearhead the win.
Why Syracuse won
The play of Howard (pictured below) and Dolezaj was critical to the Orange victory. Howard led all scorers with 18 points, 12 of which came in the second half.Embed from Getty Images
Dolezaj, rarely thought of as an offensive threat, finished with 11 points. Dolezaj hit a couple clutch jumpers and nailed a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left to extend the Syracuse lead to 5 points.
Coach Jim Boeheim elaborated on Dolezaj’s great game today, “Nobody is guarding Marek and he got himself in the right spots where he can get that little shot and he made it. Those were big plays.”
Tyus Battle played poorly throughout the game but Syracuse’s main man stepped up when the team needed it most. Battle nailed a tough three pointer with under 2 minutes to play to give the Orange a 57-51 lead.
The Syracuse zone looked great during both halves of the game. Miami was constantly forced into long three point attempts which boded well for the Orange. The Hurricanes only connected on 7 of 31 three pointers.
Syracuse started slowly and went 0-5 from the field. Oshae Brissett (pictured below) missed some easy looks right at the hoop. Luckily for the Orange, Miami also struggled and started 1-6 from the field.Embed from Getty Images
The Hurricanes bothered Battle early and often as they effectively doubled teamed him in the first half and forced the ball out of his hands. As a result, Dolezaj ended up with the ball a few times and it led to a few bad turnovers early.
Battle had a short spurt in the first half where he scored 5 straight points for the Orange but was quiet the rest of the first frame. One of his buckets was a nice three pointer in the face of guard Lonnie Walker IV.
Paschal Chukwu played well in the first half and brought a lot of energy. His defense was a force and he recorded 2 huge blocks.
Brissett made the play of the first half when he slammed home a thunderous one-handed dunk to give Syracuse an 11-8 lead with just over 12 minutes to play.
Miami’s shooting woes continued as they started 2-13 from the field. Guard Chris Lykes (pictured below) was the one bright spot for the Hurricanes in the first half. He scored 9 points in the first frame.Embed from Getty Images
Miami went on a 7-0 run late in the first half to take a 21-20 lead on a Walker breakaway lay-in.
Howard scored 4 consecutive points on a floater and breakaway lay-in but sophomore Dewan Huell and Lykes both had late points to tie the game at 25 at the half.
Brissett led the Orange with 9 points and 7 rebounds in the first half while Battle struggled and shot 2-10 from the field.
Walker started the second half with a three pointer for Miami but Syracuse responded with a resounding 15-0 run to take a 40-28 lead. Howard recorded 7 points during the run and Dolezaj hit a beautiful mid-range jumper and made a nice floater in the lane.
Miami couldn’t buy a bucket and started the half 1-10 from the field. Lykes and Walker snapped the Hurricanes out of the funk with back to back threes to cut the lead to 6 points.
A big three from Brissett temporarily stopped Miami’s momentum but the Hurricanes quickly went on an 8-0 run and the Orange only lead by 2 with 10 minutes to play.
Junior Ebuka Izundu hit a short 2 point bucket to knot the game at 43. Just like that the Hurricanes had erased the Orange 12 point lead and the stage was set for a great finish.
Syracuse went on a 7-2 run behind 5 points from Howard and a lucky up and under scoop shot from Brissett.
Walker and Huell responded with back to back buckets for the Hurricanes to cut the lead to 52-49 with 4:05 remaining.
Battle hit his huge three pointer with under 2 minutes to play to extend the Orange lead to 57-51.
Dolezaj and Battle iced the game combining to go 4-4 from the free throw line in the last 19 seconds.
Syracuse shot 64% from the field in the second half and as a result escaped with their biggest win of the season.
Syracuse had to get this win and they found a way to leave Coral Gables with a victory. The win boosts the Orange’s tournament resume that was in desperate need of a huge win. Miami represents a road win against a top 30 RPI team for Syracuse.
Looking forward, the Orange have to win two of their final four games to keep their tournament hopes alive. They host #14 North Carolina on Wednesday at the Carrier Dome, travel to #12 Duke next Saturday, travel to Boston College on February 28 and finish the regular season with a home game against #11 Clemson. North Carolina, Duke and Clemson represent massive opportunities for the Orange. Two wins over these next two weeks would give Syracuse 20 total regular season wins and a victory over a top 15 team. It’d be tough for the tournament committee to keep the Orange away from the Big Dance.
#14 North Carolina travels to Syracuse for an intriguing match-up on Wednesday night. It presents a huge opportunity for the Orange to add to its middle of the road resume. The Tar Heels (20-7, 9-5 ACC) have won their last four games and play at Louisville today.Embed from Getty Images
**cover photo from Daily Orange**