The Syracuse Orange worked back, free throw after free throw, holding the Bonnies to two points over the last 11:45 of the second half. But at the buzzer, Oshae Brissett grabbed Tyus Battle’s miss and watched his put-back attempt roll out. After 12 offensive rebounds, the Orange had to settle for overtime after a 13-point comeback.
Marek Dolezaj finished off his two boards to start overtime, but within seconds him and Paschal Chukwu were on the bench fouled out. The Bonnies made free throws count in overtime, and put seven points on the board in that frame to win 60-57.
St. Bonaventure could have entered as a sneaky option to knock Syracuse off for the first time since 1980-81, but many highlighted their 9-2 record and road win at Maryland early in the season. Plus the Bonnies’ longest win streak since 1999-00 (6). Through the first half they did not surprise, Jaylen Adams went on that attack through passing that moved the zone in-and-out, then side-to-side.
Overall, St. Bonaventure poured six threes in on 11 attempts through 20 minutes, assisting six of their 12 makes to go ahead 40-34 at the half. As Adams poured 21 on the Orange defense, the Bonnies limited Brissett and Battle to 4-of-16 shooting through half.
In their absence, Frank Howard emerged from three early misses, including getting blocked inside in the first three minutes, and picked up two foul calls. He then stole the ball and ran for two. He’d provide 12 first half points with a pair of three-pointers, while Dolezaj held down the interior with five rebounds and 3-of-3 shooting.
Defensively Syracuse got attacked outside after the rim rejected various Bonnies transition runs. Matt Mobley and Izaiah Brockington poured in two threes to go ahead 8-3. Adams earned three free throws, then LaDarien Griffin finished the Bonnies’ first interior look on a running slam from Courtney Stockard.
The Orange fouled, Dolezaj blocked three shots, and St. Bonaventure assisted, missing nine layups inside. But another three from Adams with under seven minutes to go pulled the Bonnies ahead 28-23. They led 40-33 at half, misses inside making it evident that the struggles the Orange faced could have been worse. Into the second half, that shifted the other way.
Brissett attacked twice early and missed both shots, he kicked out his eighth rebound to Howard who hit an early three. But the Bonnies unloaded in short order after Griffin was stuffed inside twice by Paschal Chukwu and Dolezaj. Mobley hit a three, then Adams tossed Griffin an alley-oop for a ferocious dunk that fired up the section behind St. Bonaventure’s bench. With 13 minutes to go, the Bonnies led 49-36.
Brissett and Battle traded attempts around the paint, trying to will the Orange back. They pushed a four point run getting within 11 as Syracuse broke into a press that completely halted the Bonnies’ run, with their first shot flying over the backboard.
Battle blocked a dunk attempt by Griffin, and Howard stole a possession away, as Syracuse’s defense held St. Bonaventure scoreless for two minutes through the halfway point and got within eight, Battle hitting a pair of free throws and Howard one.
The Orange took it possession by possession, extending the scoreless streak to over three minutes forcing Griffin to miss a 10-footer, then Brissett hit two free throws and tipped the ball away from Griffin as he rose to try to finish inside again with eight minutes left.
Syracuse swarmed Adams, held scoreless for the first 14 minutes of the half and coping with three fouls, trying to force him to make a play. With under seven left he did, slipping a pass into the post through Battle and Howard to Amadi Ipkeze, who threw it down through the net.
Howard, Battle traded turnovers, but the Bonnies matched each one. For the moment maintaining a nine point lead, but they cracked first, handing Battle a free throw make then losing the in-bounds for their third straight turnover.
Six minutes passed with no Syracuse field goals, but free throws kept coming. Howard hit two more, Dolezaj entered and picked up a steal, then Howard was running the other way to score at the rim. Breaking their bucket streak, Syracuse trailed only 53-50, hitting 8-of-10 free throws through the stretch.
More importantly, SU forced nine turnovers in eight minutes and 13 in the half through 17 minutes. Syracuse missed two spot-ups, and Dolezaj missed his free throw after an offensive rebound. The Bonnies only had two points in over eight minutes, but the Orange struggled to make up the final three.
The Orange finally did it with 1:18 left, they passed through three options, found Chukwu in the middle who dribbled and finished through a foul. Heading to the line a 46 percent free throw shooter, down one with one shot, he finished after a short delay for an object on the court.
Begging for a make with just two points in 11 minutes, the Bonnies traded misses between Adams and Mobley with under one minute left. Mobley chased a second offensive rebound in one possession, tipping it past Dolezaj. The referees watched with 27 seconds left, reviewing the play for over two minutes then awarding the Orange final possession.
Battle took the ball, burnt 17 seconds, drove to the paint and missed front rim. Brissett caught the rebound, laid it up at point blank range and it rolled out as the buzzer sounded, sending the game to overtime.
Dolezaj finally made two offensive rebounds pay off to start overtime, but seconds later he and Chukwu walked to the bench with five fouls. Sending Bourama Sidibe, who Jim Boeheim said would only play in an emergency, into the game. The Bonnies went at him, worked a three point lead on free throws and a step-back move for three by Battle rimmed out, leaving only 1:25 left for a comeback. Battle shot 3-of-18.
Brissett managed to put his own miss back this time, but after the possession arrow pointed the Bonnies’ way on a jump ball. Howard passed to Howard Washington down three in the corner who got blocked with 0.3 seconds left. Boeheim threw his clipboard, knowing the clock didn’t leave time for a three as the Bonnies rushed the court victorious over three decades later.