Syracuse, N.Y. — It wasn’t without controversy, but the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team handled the Niagara Purple Eagles by a final score of 75-45 inside the Carrier Dome on Thursday night. Quincy Guerrier led the way with 23 points and 13 rebounds as the 2-3 zone stymied Greg Paulus’ Niagara team.
Prior to tip it was announced that one member of the Syracuse team tested positive for COVID-19 and would not play. Buddy Boeheim, Chaz Owens and Bourama Sidibe never came out of the tunnel. Mike Waters of Syracuse.com reported that the younger Boeheim did not test positive, but was part of the contact trace group.
Greg Paulus said he found out about Syracuse's positive Covid-19 test a couple of minutes before the game.— Mike Curtis (@MikeACurtis2) December 4, 2020
With Boeheim out, Kadary Richmond started in his place. Alan Griffin also made his first start as Marek Dolezaj supplanted the injured Bourama Sidibe at center, joining Joe Girard and Guerrier as the starting five.
After a pair of early clock malfunctions, both teams started out hot on the offensive end. Guerrier led the way in scoring for Syracuse with eight quick points. Niagara was able to dissect the zone for open looks but Syracuse led 15-14 at the first media timeout.
The 2-3 zone would tighten up after the first media timeout, however, and the Orange added to its lead. Richmond had a pair of buckets and a Griffin three gave Syracuse a 26-16 edge with all five starters still in the game. In that stretch, Syracuse held Niagara scoreless for over five minutes.
Jim Boeheim made his first substitutions — Robert Braswell and Woody Newton replaced Guerrier and Griffin on the wings — at the 6:43 mark. Jesse Edwards was the first center off the bench shortly after, but he was soon replaced after missing an assignment on a corner three.
Newton made the first shot of his Syracuse career on a corner three, which gave Syracuse a 38-16 lead. Niagara closed the half on an 8-2 run with a pair of Marcus Hammond 3s, but Syracuse took a 42-28 lead into the half.
Out of the half, Syracuse continued its strong offensive play and rolled with 12-2 run. Guerrier extended his dominant play inside against a smaller Niagara team. He earned a double-double early in the second by finishing inside and getting on the glass. Richmond stole the show in the second half, picking up a pair of steals after the half and getting out on the fast break, showcasing his athleticism.
Niagara never threatened in the second half. As a result, Boeheim was given the opportunity to experiment and give his bench guys extra run. John Bol Ajak made his first appearance of the season. Griffin moved to play the top of the 2-3 zone when Richmond was out. Newton and Braswell got some extended time, the former even played at the top of the zone as well. Freshman Frank Anselem finished out the game at center.
The sophomores largely struggled in this game. Girard had some bright spots, but he struggled to get going, shooting 3-11 with four turnovers. Redshirt sophomore Braswell looked out of rhythm going 1-7 from the floor and Edwards only played one minute in the first half.
In the end, Syracuse cruised to a win and moved to 2-0 on the season as the defense stepped up, holding the Purple Eagles to 28.1 percent shooting from the field and 16.7 percent from distance.
Richmond finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, six assists, four steals and three blocks. Griffin finished with double-figures while Dolezaj had seven points and ten rebounds. Newton had nine points and five rebounds.
Following the game, Jim Boeheim said that Buddy Boeheim would be out 14 days and miss the Rider game on Saturday as well as the Rutgers game on Dec. 8.