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Final score: Syracuse 72, UConn 63

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Welcome to the big stage, Matthew Moyer!

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Syracuse Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange made their return to “the world’s most famous arena” with an impressive defensive performance. The Orange’s length was on full display right from the tip, as they were disrupting entry passes and turning them into steals. Of course you need to score the ball to win the game, but Syracuse’s stifling defense led them to a 72-63 win over the UConn Huskies.

By the first media timeout, 4:35 into the game, Syracuse generated three quick steals by using their length to harass the Husky ball handlers. The active hands were rewarded with open looks on offense as Matthew Moyer finally broke out of his offensive struggles and got the Orange going with five quick points (18 total)—and two highlight dunks to celebrate.

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Syracuse Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

The defense got the offensive help it needed in the first half with freshmen starters Moyer and Oshae Brissett aggressively attacking the rim from the start. Brissett’s athleticism was in full effect as he found shots around the rim by slashing through UConn’s defense on his way to a 12-point, five rebound rebound half. It’s a great sign for this Syracuse basketball team when they don’t need to depend on Tyus Battle and Frank Howard carrying the offense every night.

Despite the quiet start, Battle contributed to the 11-point first half lead with 12 points of his own. It got a little sloppy for Syracuse’s offense towards the end of the half, but the stellar defense and active cutters gave them breathing room going into the locker-room.

The sloppy end to the first half continued into the start of the second until Battle let the Syracuse fans at Madison Square Garden take a seat at the 18:12 mark. However, the Syracuse half court offense remained stagnant as Howard struggled to finish at the rim. Despite slow offensive start, the great defense from the first half carried over to the second with more steals for the Orange.

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Syracuse
Oshae Brissett was a monster on the glass again, this time finishing with a game high 10 boards.
Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

The contributions from the role players slowed down in the second half which led to Battle doing what he does best: score. The leading scorer for the Orange found his range and used it to open up easy drives to the rim. Coach Jim Boeheim and the Orange will take all the help they can get in terms of scoring, but at the end of the day they know they need Battle to make the plays that make him a first round pick caliber player.

Despite the Battle takeover, the Syracuse native started to get worried as Howard inability to take care of the ball prompted a UCONN comeback. Howard struggled all night, finishing with five points, six assists, and eight turnovers, but Battle, Brissett, and Moyer’s combined 56 points was enough to hold on and move Syracuse to 7-1.