Despite a spirited effort in the return of Elijah Hughes, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team fell on the road against the No. 8-ranked Florida State Seminoles by a final score of 80-77. Florida State made the necessary plays and free throws down the stretch seal the deal late.
After suffering a lower body injury earlier in the week against NC State, Elijah Hughes returned to action against FSU on Saturday. On the other side, Florida State’s leading scorer and rebounder Devin Vassell did not play for the Seminoles.
Syracuse took an early 4-0 lead behind a Hughes jumper and a Joe Girard lay-up, but Florida State got on the glass and reclaimed the lead quickly.
Once again, the Syracuse front-court found itself in foul trouble as Marek Dolezaj picked up two quick ones. He was supplanted by freshman Quincy Guerrier, who picked up an offensive foul on his first play. Jim Boeheim immediately subbed Dolezaj back in for him despite the two fouls.
Shortly after, Hughes went down in the first half after he hit a wet spot on the court and did a split. He walked back to the tunnel with Syracuse trainer Brad Pike, tested the waters by running in place and returned to the game right after.
Minutes later, Florida State guard MJ Walker took an elbow to the face by a teammate in the same spot where Hughes slipped. He went back to the locker room with a bloody nose.
The first half was close throughout with neither team able to extend its lead to double-digits. Dolezaj had the play of the game when he drove from the left wing, executed a spin move between two defenders and somehow finished on the opposite side of the rim.
Wait, what did Marek Dolezaj just do? Driving right, splits two guys with a spin move and finishes with a reverse on the opposite side?— James Szuba (@JamesSzuba) February 15, 2020
Just... how? pic.twitter.com/XxqQJx1a3k
Even though Buddy Boeheim struggled to find his shooting touch, Joe Girard picked up the slack from range. Syracuse was able to regain the lead at 26-25 for the first time since the Orange held an early 4-0 lead on a Girard triple.
Moments later, a Dolezaj tip-in gave Syracuse a 29-27 advantage, but he picked up his third foul shortly thereafter. With Dolezaj on the bench, Florida State went on a 14-4 run to close the half. Rayquan Evans and Patrick Williams hit back to back 3s and the Seminoles went into the break with a 41-33 lead.
Out of the half, Bourama Sidibe had a nice stretch of play for Syracuse. He grabbed three important rebounds, two of which were offensive. His first offensive rebound led to a Florida State foul and two made free throws. His second came after a tip-in, which he was fouled on, and completed of a 3-point play. He’d later pick up a fourth foul, however, and would not return down the stretch.
Nevertheless, jumpers from Evans and Trent Forrest stretched Florida State’s lead back to eight, which warranted a Syracuse timeout just over five minutes into the second half.
Buddy Boeheim struggled mightily against Florida State. After missing a pair of 3s mid-way through the second, Jim Boeheim elected to give Brycen Goodine some run. Boeheim would later return but he did not score in the game for the first time all season.
Still, the Orange kept it close as Quincy Guerrier worked inside; his lay-up at the 8:14 mark cut Florida State’s lead to 59-55. Syracuse began to execute down the stretch, something it struggled to do on Tuesday night without Hughes. A 5-0 Girard run began with a driving lay-up. He followed that up with a 3-pointer from the left wing that gave Syracuse a 62-59 lead. The make was his fifth and final 3-ball of the night.
Florida State fought back as teams traded buckets in the final stretch. Walker cut it to one with a 3-pointer.
Moments later, a lob from Dolezaj to Guerrier resulted in an emphatic dunk that led to an and-one. Guerrier made the free throw and gave Syracuse a 68-64 lead. After two Florida State free throws and a 1-2 effort from the line for Hughes, a four-point play by MJ Walker gave Florida State control of the lead at 70-69 with 2:36 remaining.
Syracuse and Florida State went bucket for bucket down the stretch, until a Hughes miss gave the edge back to Florida State. RaiQuan Gray was fouled and made two free throws, which gave FSU a late 76-73 lead.
Hughes had back to back drives in the final minute that kept Syracuse within one each time. But on the last Florida State possession, Syracuse fouled Trent Forrest and he made both free throws.
Down by three on the final play, Hughes was forced to take a deep shot that clanked off the iron. Florida State grabbed the rebound and escaped with an 80-77 win over Syracuse.
Elijah Hughes led Syracuse in scoring with 25 points
Joe Girard put up 22 points with 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Quincy Guerrier scored 13 points off the bench for SU.
Patrick Williams had 17 points and 7 rebounds for Florida State.
Florida State won the rebounding battle 47-29.
FSU shot 44% from deep while Syracuse shot just 28%.
Syracuse will go on the road to take on the Louisville Cardinals this Wednesday. That game tips at 7:00 p.m. and will air on ESPN.