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Syracuse Defense Lifts Orange in 57-47 Win Over Lehigh

The 2-3 zone proved to be the difference in the game as Syracuse struggled to shoot from the floor.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse tipped off the official season with a 57-47 win against Lehigh at the Carrier Dome. The Mountain Hawks struggled from floor, shooting 28.8 percent for the game and 11.8 percent from beyond the arc. Lehigh made things interesting in the second half by making a couple of runs but never got within six points.

Malachi Richardson got off to an auspicious start knocking down his first two three-pointers of the game. He'd finish his college basketball debut with 14 points on four triples. Kaleb Joseph got on the board late in the first half by knocking down a three with three seconds remaining which gave Syracuse a 20 point lead going into the half.

Joseph continued to produce off the bunch by hitting a big three in the second half when Lehigh cut the Syracuse lead to six. The sophomore was able to connect on a triple from the top of the key, stretching Syracuse's led back to nine. Cooney knocked down a three of his own on the ensuing possession to give Syracuse more breathing room.

DaJuan Coleman picked up some quick fouls and was somewhat limited against the Mountain Hawks. Junior big man Tim Kempton mitigated Coleman in this one.

Michael Gbinije led all scorers in the game with 16 points while shooting 4-5 from the free throw line. He knocked down a timely triple with under five minutes play. With Lehigh surging back and cutting the Syracuse lead to eight, Gbinije pulled up from 22 feet and buried a three to increase the lead to 11.

The Orange didn't shoot the ball well tonight, but managed to pull of the victory because of its defense. In games where Syracuse struggles to knock down shots, it will be even more imperative for the defense to play well. Lehigh was a good test to open the season as the Mountain Hawks figure to win the Patriot League and make the NCAA Tournament. Syracuse will host St. Bonaventure on Tuesday and attempt to improve to 2-0 on the season.