Zach Johnson cruised to the rim in transition around the halfway point of the second half and arrived to the rim with company. The Syracuse Orange’s 6-foot-6 Elijah Hughes beat him there from behind, and elevated all the way to the basket to reject him and send the Carrier Dome into a frenzy.
Hughes hit six three-points on an explosive night from beyond the arc for the Orange. None of them received a louder ovation than his block, which began a downward spiral for the Miami Hurricanes toward a 21-point deficit in a 73-53 win for the Orange. Hughes, in a banner night for his remarkably consistent debut season in Syracuse, shot 8-for-13 with 22 points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals. And three blocks that resonated the loudest.
It wasn’t that way early on. Against a Miami team, 1-5 in ACC play, that Syracuse topped on the road last year and is 18-8 against all time, the expected didn’t occur again, and the Orange needed Boeheim’s three first-half three-pointers to help them escape an early rut.
As Ebuka Izundu slipped behind Paschal Chukwu for a layup, rushed ahead of the defense to catch a no-look pass from Chris Lykes for a dunk and Anthony Mack drilled threes in both corners, the Orange fell behind 15-9 in the opening minutes.
Izundu tipped multiple rebounds out past Chukwu to push the Hurricanes ahead 6-1 on the boards to open the game, forcing Jim Boeheim to point Bourama Sidibe’s way. He’d soon point toward Marek Dolezaj, who fed Sidibe down low from the high post to get back within 15-11.
But the turnaround occurred following a strange stretch where Lykes got his pass stolen, stole it back from Sidibe, then fired a ball over Izundu’s head out of bounds. Plays later, Zach Johnson stumbled out of bounds with an uncontested rebound after Frank Howard’s third three-pointer in three attempts pulled the Orange within 20-17. Enter, Boeheim (the teenaged one) and point Tyus Battle – who posted nine assists.
Boeheim followed up his 4-for-4 start against Pittsburgh from outside by drilling three straight threes to push the Orange ahead of Miami off Battle’s swinging passes and Oshae Brissett’s screens. His first tied the game at 20, his second came off a hesitation and feed from Battle and a third flowed right from Battle for his fifth assist and a 29-24 lead.
To begin the second half, Hughes picked up where Boeheim left off, leading with a corner three and then feeding Battle as he dumped the ball to him on his way to a corner three. Syracuse started 11-of-20 outside while Hughes racked up four makes outside in the first 26 minutes.
Less smoothly, Chukwu got the better of Lykes in a chase to the floor for a loose ball that incited Jim Larrañaga against the referees. Battle charged to the rim for a three-point play and then stripped Lykes to set up Dolezaj for two in transition in a run that put the Orange up a game-high 50-41. Larrañaga soon got called for a technical after Chukwu blocked Izundu.
As the game slid toward the eight-minute mark, so did Miami’s fortunes, and they crumbled in the hands of Hughes. He slashed to hit Dolezaj for three, chased down Zach Johnson in transition to block him at the rim, then splashed his sixth three from the corner to put the Orange up 61-44.
The starters hit the bench with more than a minute to play on a taco night leading into a three-game road trip, which begins Saturday against No. 10 Virginia Tech at 8 p.m
Our own Dylan Finer’s video recap here: