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Syracuse 78, Cornell 63: Mintz-Girard duo, fastbreak offense gives Orange fifth-straight win

The Orange keep its 50-plus-year winning streak against Big Red alive.

NCAA Basketball: Cornell at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Even with most of the students gone for winter break, the fans inside the JMA Wireless Dome brought all the energy needed in Saturday afternoon’s close contest between the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (7-4, 1-0) and the Cornell Big Red (7-2).

In the end, Syracuse men’s basketball (8-4, 1-0) completes its second-half comeback to defeat Cornell (7-3) 76-63.

Both teams entered the contest on an interesting note within their seasons. The Orange were coming off their fourth-straight win but recently competed in a surprisingly-close contest against Monmouth Tuesday night. On the other hand, Cornell hadn’t played since December 7, falling then to #25 Miami (FL) despite scoring 105 points in the contest versus the Hurricanes.

The contest versus Cornell would be the last nonconference game of the season for the Orange, with Syracuse playing its next 19 regular season games against the ACC.

It was a slow start for Syracuse right from tip-off, with the Orange struggling to get going on offense outside of a few early jumpers from Joe Girard III. Big Red went up as early as 11 points courtesy of some hot shooting from three (4/7 to begin the game) and some excellent ball movement that caused the Syracuse 2-3 zone to collapse.

Despite the early deficit, Syracuse was able to generate enough points to hang around despite the slow shooting out of the gate. A pair of tough baskets from Judah Mintz slashed Big Red’s lead in half. From there, the Orange started hitting their threes, with Girard and Chris Bell lighting things up and the rest of the team upping the defensive pressure.

Interestingly, with Edwards struggling in the first half, coach Boeheim opted to go with a Girard-Mintz backcourt alongside Chris Bell, Benny Williams, and Maliq Brown off the bench, giving the Orange a bit more court spacing and better burst on the court.

Syracuse entered halftime tied 37-37. versus Cornell. Girard led the way for the Orange with 15 points on 5/8 shooting in the first half, including 3/5 from three. Bell, Mintz, Brown, and Williams gave the Orange a spark in the first half’s final minutes, while Edwards (11 minutes, 1 point, 4 rebounds, 0/1 from the field) struggled to get going early on.

Cornell’s Isaiah Gray (8 points on 3/3 shooting) and Sean Hansen (7 points on 3/4 shooting) kept Big Red’s offense going. Syracuse’s defense cooled Cornell’s hot shooting, forcing Big Red to go just 7/22 (32%) from three in the first half.

In the second half, both teams started off strong out of the gate, with Syracuse shooting 4/7 and Cornell nailing back-to-back threes. The Orange did a *little* better at rotating faster along the perimeter, and Syracuse lucked out into some cold shooting by Cornell to begin the half.

The defensive intensity at the top of the perimeter led to a couple of snatched passes and some great transition opportunities for Syracuse, including this lob pass from Girard to Mintz for the slam.

The Orange surged out to a double-digit lead early in the second half thanks to a 12-2 run sparked by coach Boeheim’s small-ball lineup. Edwards remained on the sidelines early on in the half due to a bloody nose, but returned and quickly got going to give Syracuse a 63-45 lead, its largest in the game up until then.

Despite scoring just 4 points in the second half, Girard led Syracuse in scoring with 19 points on 5/12 shooting and 3/8 from three, with Mintz chipping in 14 points, 3 assists, and 3 steals. Bell (13 points) and Williams (12 points) looked consistent on offense throughout the game, while Edwards (11 points on 5/6 shooting, 11 rebounds, and 5 blocks) finished strong on both ends of the court despite a poor first half. Despite the inconsistent defense, Syracuse held Cornell to just 33% from the field and 27% from three (on 48 attempts).

With the win, Syracuse clinches its fifth-straight victory with the Orange shifting its attention now to its ACC competition.

More importantly, the Orange defeated Big Red for the 42nd-straight time, keeping its over-half-a-century win streak versus its neighbors further down I-81 alive.