PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team lost its final game in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament, falling to a physical Auburn Tigers team 89-68. Syracuse allowed Auburn to shoot 50% from the floor and got out-rebounded 38-28.
Jim Boeheim went with his usual starters of Joe Girard, Buddy Boeheim, Jimmy Boeheim, Cole Swider and Jesse Edwards.
Syracuse jumped out to a 12-9 lead by the first media timeout as Buddy made two free throws, hit back to back 3s and two scores inside by Edwards gave the Orange a narrow early edge.
After playing all starters at least 35 minutes on Thursday, Boeheim turned to Benny Williams at the 12-minute mark while Frank Anselem and Symir Torrence came in one minute after. All three bench players received more minutes in the first half than all of the last game against Arizona State.
The bench produced initially as a Williams defensive tie-up gave him a steal. He recovered a tipped ball, passed out of a double which eventually found Torrence for his first three of the season to make the score 20-17. Anselem also made a pair of free throws.
But Auburn showed its press — something Syracuse has had trouble with in this event — and the Tigers went on a 13-3 run. A costly Torrence turnover led to a layup on the other end. Girard answered with a three, but Auburn’s Zep Jasper had a banked in three. A transition basket followed by another banked in three, this time by Lior Berman, gave Auburn a 35-25 lead.
Syracuse would go into the half down by that margin. The Orange shot well from the free line (11-12), but Auburn owned the glass 19-11 and outscored Syracuse 22-10 in the paint. Eight transition points and open looks against the zone allowed Auburn to shoot 50% from three. Auburn held a 43-33 lead at the intermission.
Auburn came out of the half and continued with its defensive pressure. The Tigers were physical with Syracuse and forced the Orange off the three point line and into missed shots. A turnover and transition bucket gave the Tigers a 51-36 lead which led to Boehiem calling his antepenultimate timeout with 16 minutes remaining.
On the other end, the Syracuse defense conceded lobs at the rim which resulted in dunks and layups. Trailing by as many as 19, a Jimmy Boeheim transition three fell after a feed from Torrence but Auburn still led 57-41.
With Syracuse struggling to find shots against Auburn’s swarming defense, Swider found a bit of rhythm as he pump-faked and drove by his defender for two. Then, his pull up three in transition to cut the lead down to 14. Edwards made two free throws. Then he made a layup after a Buddy steal and find in transition.
But Jabari Smith answered with a three to give Auburn a 67-54 lead with 7:40 to play. Down the stretch, Syracuse showed some fight but was unable to get the lead back to single digits. An Edwards offensive rebound and put-back trimmed the lead to 11 but that was as close as Syracuse would get the rest of the way. Devan Cambridge and Smith made 3s for Auburn that put the game out of reach.
Ultimately, the 2-3 zone allowed too many high-post touches for lobs at the rim and Auburn proved to be too much in the paint for Syracuse to handle. The Orange fell to 1-2 in the event and 3-3 on the season.
Syracuse returns home to take on Indiana in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. That game tips on Tuesday at 7 p.m. and airs on ESPN2.