Joseph Girard scored 20 points, with seven assists as he ramped up the Syracuse Orange’s transition attack to counteract the Oakland Golden Grizzlies’ pressure around the rim. Jesse Edwards emerged with some promising defense, despite two quick fouls, and Quincy Guerrier closed strong with Marek Dolezaj inside to solidify a 74-62 win that was much closer than that all night.
SU finished both halves with 10-6 and 8-4 runs respectively, Bourama Sidibe committed four fouls and shot 1-for-3, even traveling on a post-up. He hauled in 13 rebounds, but Syracuse’s depth needed to hold off Oakland’s mid-half runs.
Syracuse followed Madison Monroe’s game-opening steal from Dolezaj in the high post with a frustrating lack of offensive ingenuity. Buddy Boeheim, Joseph Girard III and Elijah Hughes launched four straight misses from three, as the Orange started 2-for-12 from outside. The side-to-side passing and flat-footed attempts with defenders nearby to contest kept Oakland in the game for 17 minutes.
The Golden Grizzlies committed their share of the burden to bog the game down with a pair of passes straight to Sidibe in the middle of the zone. Dolezaj broke the slog with a fake into the interior that drew free throws. He stuffed Daniel Oladapo at the rim a possession later, allowing Hughes to find Girard for SU’s first three.
Hughes drilled his own to take an 8-2 lead, as Oakland committed seven turnovers in less than six minutes. Xavier Hills-Mais took Syracuse’s first turnover since their flurry of giveaways to turn a 4-0 run that pulled the Orange’s bench into action. Boeheim, after Syracuse’s slow-motion opening sequence, escaped for a trio of threes, making two and drilling three free throws. His jumper after put SU ahead 23-17.
Hills-Mais and Tray Maddox Jr., a former SU football recruit, swung another run around Howard Washington’s turnover, pulling Girard back into the game. Jesse Edwards entered with him, due to Sidibe’s three first-half fouls, with an offensive rebound that set up Girard for a triple. He hit a spinning layup inside to help Syracuse build a seven-point lead, got to the line to split a pair and stole a pass from Christopher Gettelfinger inside.
That stop unleashed Hughes for a dunk, slashing in transition on a pass from Boeheim. He flushed a pair of threes from Girard before half for an eight-point burst in less than two minutes of game time. Girard hit a jumper with 30 seconds left to boost SU into halftime up 43-35.
Girard fed Boeheim and Hughes for three-pointers after an 0-for-5 drought that lasted 3:30 into the second half. Maddox hit a three in respond with a Hill-Mais putback keeping Oakland within a threatening deficit. Hughes and Girard found Dolezaj on consecutive possessions, sneaking beneath the defense and in transition after.
Oakland pulled back within six after Brad Brechting finished through traffic and Maddox stripped Boeheim to tip-toe through Hughes and Dolezaj for a make and foul in transition. Hill-Mais added a turnaround make on a putback to make it a 55-51 game.
Syracuse found its best lineup with Guerrier and Dolezaj in the front court. Guerrier found Dolezaj for a make, before the Orange forced a pair of turnovers that sent Oakland back to Detroit. Girard hit two free throws after stealing a pass from Maddox, then round Hughes for another dunk in transition.
Guerrier earned himself a back-door slam from Hughes right after, and Girard capped the win with a three from Boeheim. A pair of free throws shortly after put SU up by double-digits and handed him a 20-point performance.
Syracuse faces North Florida on Saturday at 6 p.m. in the Dome, with some promising results from Guerrier and Edwards that could reshape the front court.