Syracuse tried the press. They played the free throw game. Elijah Hughes launched the best scoring game of his career, hitting a three from near the logo to get the Orange as close as nine in the second half. Nonetheless, SU’s 23-16 lead slipped away through transition defense debacles in the first. Foul trouble struck Marek Dolezaj, Bourama Sidibe and Hughes. SU’s bench, which fell on our radar today, could not contribute enough for them.
All this compounded with a 2-for-14 three-point shooting night for Syracuse’s starting guards and led the Oklahoma State Cowboys to a 86-72 victory. SU will play Penn State in the NIT consolation game after the Nittany Lions collapsed 47-29 in the second half.
Transition defense nonexistent
Isaac Likekele asserted his presence over the game from the earliest moments, fronting Joseph Girard III at half court and running in transition. He tagged Sidibe with an early foul, then sprinted to a left-handed layup on Buddy Boeheim’s first miss. The Cowboys built an 11-0 lead on his pace. Oklahoma State outscored Syracuse 35-16 on the break.
Oklahoma State entered running 70 possessions per game, compared to Syracuse’s 67.5. Only Bucknell exceeded the Cowboy’s pace among the Orange’s first five opponents, with Virginia ranking dead last across college basketball in pace, per KenPom.
Likekele finished 8-for-11 from the field, forced five steals, dished eight assists and converted 9-for-10 from the free throw line to score 26 points. He buffered Elijah Hughes’ 28-point performance, with SU’s starters struggling around him enough to give Oklahoma State an offensive edge.
Paschal Chukwu once used his massive strides to get back in position underneath the rim on misses. Syracuse got 12 offensive rebounds in the loss, but probably would’ve benefited more from losing them to get back on defense. The Cowboys outscored SU 16-5 on second chance points anyway, thanks to Yor Anei.
Likekele’s lefty finishes will exist in Syracuse’s minds through Thanksgiving dinner.
Oklahoma State a mess in the half court, but Cuse gives it right back
The Cowboys appeared more lost than Syracuse in the half court, passing straight into the back line of the zone and struggling to hit threes consistently on the outside. Oklahoma State committed 20 turnovers, but Syracuse would send the ball right back often — dishing out 17 of their own to render their defensive efforts obsolete.
Girard took most of the first half to adjust to pressure on the ball, turning it over immediately after Lindy Waters III did for OKST. Dolezaj did the same midway through the half, and Girard lost the ball down 40-31 before missing a three that led to Chris Harris Jr.’s last minute heave before the half that fell. Oklahoma State took a double-digit lead they’d hold for most of the second half.
Girard committed five, Dolezaj three, and the rest of the starters gave away the ball twice in the loss.
Bench still not ready to contribute
Each Orange starter except Buddy Boeheim accumulated four fouls, thrusting a bench that lacked much game time into heavy action. Quincy Guerrier’s struggles continued. He awkwardly missed two shots around the rim, despite honing in on that area for his attempts and actively chasing rebounds. He missed two free throws, as SU went 26-for-37 at the line in a 14-point game.
Brycen Goodine limited his turnovers, but missed all three of his outside attempts. Robert Braswell hit a three as part of a late charge by Syracuse, but Jesse Edwards and Howard Washington only provided one point. Boeheim attributed foul trouble to disrupting the Orange’s offensive rhythm. The bench ultimately got outscored by less than SU’s starters, but could not chip into the lead or provide any burst.
Jalen Carey’s surgery last week cast even more uncertainty over Syracuse’s second unit.