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Syracuse 81, Buffalo 74: Frank Howard bounces back to help hold off Bulls

Frank Howard breaks off a 5-0 run after two straight turnovers that almost cost Syracuse the game.

NCAA Basketball: Buffalo at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse Orange guard Frank Howard tossed a ball from the baseline to the the top of the key, and watched as C.J Massinburg tipped it and ran in transition for two points. Wes Clark stripped him on the next possession, running away again and this time putting the Bulls on top with only 3:18 remaining.

Howard walked the ball right up the court, another five-turnover game hanging over his head, but he brushed it off and dribbled to the left wing and nailed a three immediately. Syracuse escaped what could have been a disastrous loss, beating Buffalo 81-74 to move to 10-1.

Returning home from a game where the Orange dodged three-point shooting for the first time all season, Buffalo unloaded from the wings to beat the zone. Georgetown shot 2-of-17 in 40 minutes plus overtime on Saturday. The Bulls hit three in under 15 minutes.

NCAA Basketball: Buffalo at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Going inside failed immensely in the opening minutes, Chukwu stepped out routinely to the elbow to block shots, four in the first half and an additional called for goaltending that had Jim Boeheim out of his seat.

Fouls dictated first half play as well, Boeheim watching closely as Howard picked up two quick fouls. He kept Howard in, who got called for his third with 3:10 left, sending him to the bench. Oshae Brissett earned two himself before half.

Buffalo went to work as Syracuse mixed in Howard Washington-led sets for eight minutes, but he turned the ball over twice, one of them a pass out of the top of the paint to nobody on the wing that flew out. The inconsistency on the ball affected Tyus Battle, who only managed to get off five shots and score five points despite playing the entire half. The Bulls were able to stay within five to nine points throughout.

Massinburg and Wes Clark let it fly outside, unloading five shots from deep each. Massinburg missed them all, but Clark nailed three. The three-point shot has been a topic of discussion for Boeheim all year, he’s noted lower free throw attempts for teams chucking threes against them, though Buffalo hit 7-of-8 (compared to 3-of-3 for the Orange). Syracuse led 36-27 at half, behind 10 each from Brissett and Matthew Moyer.

NCAA Basketball: Buffalo at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Four minutes into the second half, Moyer got on the board again, driving straight on and finishing with a floater from 12 feet. He had hit 6-of-12 at that point, four baskets coming on dribble drives, and two receiving passes on cuts from Brissett and Howard.

Despite that performance, the Orange still struggled to get Battle involved. Massinburg drew three free throws to get Buffalo within five, then tipped a ball off Battle to force a turnover. It took Battle over six minutes to attempt a field goal, a driving layup that Jayvon Graves followed with a three. Buffalo drew within 48-44 two possessions later, and Boeheim abandoned the Moyer - Marek Dolezaj duo, sending Chukwu back in.

Chukwu immediately caught a post pass from Dolezaj he needed all 86 inches to catch, but laid the ball in after landing to go up six. Out of the timeout Buffalo kept charging, a three by Massinburg, Ikenna Smart blocked Howard, then Nick Perkins finished through Chukwu to pull the Bulls within one. Perkins matched Battle’s layup, then hit a mid-range jumper to cap off a 13-point comeback. Buffalo led 53-52.

NCAA Basketball: Buffalo at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Perkins drilled a three, capping seven straight points in just over two minutes from him. Howard responded with three through a foul, but missed his third straight free throw, Brissett hauled it in and Battle got to the line hitting both of his shots at the line to take the lead at 57-56.

Syracuse saved themselves from a brutal loss, heading to the line numerous times down the stretch. Brissett hit four, Howard bounced back with two and Chukwu split a pair of free throws after Battle saved a possession dribbling on the floor and cutting his hand.

Then Howard’s turnovers struck a hole through the Orange’s streak, Buffalo ripped off four straight points to go ahead 68-67 and Howard responded with a spot-up three. It put Syracuse ahead for good, as they halted four straight Bulls possessions afterward.

Brissett put a stamp on the win with six straight free throws, hitting all 16 he took in the game to lead all scorers with 25.