For a second, Syracuse fans were getting Colgate flashbacks.
The Syracuse Orange saw a double-digit first half lead slowly evaporate as the Cornell Big Red started hitting three-pointer after three-pointer. However, Syracuse pounded the ball inside and forced more turnovers to pull away and win 80-68 over Cornell.
The game started ugly, as neither team could find a three-point bucket to save their skins. Syracuse and Cornell started a combined 0-14 from three before Cole Swider nailed the first shot beyond the arc.
What was evident early on however was the size advantage that the Orange had over the Big Red. Cornell didn’t have a player on the floor over 6-foot-9 the entire game. That allowed Syracuse to dominate the glass and paint early to stretch an early lead. Nearly have of Syracuse’s initial points came in the paint. The Orange eventually finished with 22 first-half points in the paint
The Orange shot 53% in the first half, dominating the paint 22-2. pic.twitter.com/Cz0DqSmedo— Syracuse Men’s Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) December 30, 2021
The lack of deep shooting from Cornell also helped Syracuse pack in the defense without much fear from the Orange perimeter defenders to cover the arc. As a result Cornell started 2-13 from the floor after the first eight minutes of the game.
However what also defined the game early for both teams was sloppy play. Each team had eight turnovers after 12 minutes, and Syracuse was once again having a couple of problems dealing with a pressing team. Luckily for the Orange, Cornell wasn’t turning the turnovers into offense, only getting two points off turnovers as opposed to 13 for Syracuse after the under-eight media timeout.
And you figured that Cornell wouldn’t stay quiet from three for long. By the end of the half, Cornell finally capitalized on some turnovers and nailed eight threes. The Orange offense went dormant as well as Syracuse continued to struggle with turnovers. Both teams had 11 first-half turnovers. However, the eight threes from Cornell opposed to the two from Syracuse trimmed an initial 16-point deficit to a 34-29 halftime lead for the Orange.
The worrying problem for Syracuse was that Cornell continued to shoot the ball well from three. The Big Red cut the Orange led to as low as three as Cornell continued to find open looks outside.
What turned for the Orange was a refocused attack to the inside once again. The ball finally found the hands of Jesse Edwards and Jimmy Boeheim more often as the duo continued to take advantage of the size disadvantage against Cornell.
The big stretch came from a personal 8-0 run from Swider. He finally broke the Syracuse three-point shooting drought with two buckets from range and a fastbreak dunk. Swider turned it on in the second half, finishing with 16 second-half points and 21 points overall.
What also helped in the second half was that Syracuse massively cut down on the turnovers. Cornell had 10 second-half turnovers compared to Syracuse’s three. That helped the Orange hold the Big Red to a 35.4% field goal percentage.
It got hairy at times for Syracuse, but eventually the defense stepped up and a refocused offensive attack brought the win home for the Orange. There’s still plenty of things for Syracuse to work on, but now ACC play looms large.