After two consecutive losses when the betting odds were in their favor, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team made a much-needed statement in tonight’s 92-84 win against Arizona State. Although the team started off strong, the second half brought on some worry as Arizona State crept back into the contest. However, unlike last night, Syracuse was able to hold on even when things looked worrisome.
Here are our three takeaways from tonight’s second-round win:
Jesse Edwards’ big night
One of the difference-makers for Syracuse in tonight’s intense game was the stellar play of center Jesse Edwards. The Bahamas crowd chanted ‘M-V-P’ to the third-year player while he was at the line with 2:11 seconds left in the contest after scoring a career-high 21 points, 8 rebounds, and one assist in 35 minutes of action.
Edwards was a force in the paint throughout the contest finishing many contested layups and throwing down some nasty dunks as well. He even had the game-icing assist to Cole Swider with less than two minutes left to play. Edwards created a slew of problems for the Arizona State defense with his size and length, playing a monumental part in why the Orange walked away with the W tonight.
When Cole Swider is on... lookout
This season has been filled with ups and downs for forward Cole Swider. Last night, Swider shot 2-14 from the field and 0-7 from beyond the arch in the loss to VCU. The senior forward who transferred to Syracuse from Villanova University before the season has been inconsistent at times but also a key difference-maker in the games where he is making his perimeter shots at an efficient rate.
In the first half of tonight’s game, Swider was dangerously efficient shooting 2-3 from beyond the arch and 3-6 from the field. In the second, Swider continued to have the hot hand, scoring 11 points on 2-2 shooting from beyond the arc and 4-6 shooting from the field. Before fouling out in the last two minutes of the game, Swider finished the contest with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while also making a game-sealing layup off an assist from Edwards. If Swider can continue this hot streak with an already imposing Syracuse three-point shooting heavy lineup, look out ACC.
Rebounding and defense looked strong in the first half, but problems are still evident
After two consecutive games where the Orange’s defense and rebounding looked dubious, coach Jim Boeheim and his team began to put the metaphorical train back on its tracks during tonight’s game against Arizona State. The 2-3 zone worked efficiently in the first half holding Arizona to 30 points, but the second half brought the Orange some trouble trying to contain the Sun Devils. An 18 point first-half lead evaporated out of thin air in the second as Arizona cut the massive lead to only 8 with 1:48 left in the game. Syracuse also allowed three consecutive 3 pointers by the Sun Devils in the first three minutes of the second half, which only created more of a reason to panic for the Orange. However, Cuse’s defense was able to turn things around after that 3-point barrage, mainly through strong shot contests, help defense when necessary, and defensive rebounding.
The Orange grabbed 42 rebounds tonight with 30 of those being defensive while holding Arizona to 32 total rebounds. While Syracuse’s total rebounds tonight were above their average this season, they still struggled at times late in the game to make scoring opportunities out of the defensive rebounds they grabbed, which almost cost them the game. There is still time to turn things around on defense and transition play for Syracuse, but it will take a team effort to execute.