SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (3-0) trailed by as many as 24, but came from behind in the second half to beat the Colgate Raiders (1-1) in the 175th meeting between the two programs by a final score of 79-75.
For most of the night, Syracuse’s relative youth and inexperience showed. Colgate looked the part of a more experienced team with better execution for the first 24 minutes.
Then came the full court pressure.
On a night where fans inside the JMA Wireless Dome both cheered and jeered the Orange, Syracuse came all the way back from down 24 to both tie and take the lead with just over one minute left as Colgate collapsed.
Junior forward Benny Williams rejoined the team after what amounted to a two-game and one exhibition suspension for a “violation of team rules.” Adrian Autry went with a starting lineup of Judah Mintz, JJ Starling, Chris Bell, Justin Taylor and Naheem McLeod for the third straight game.
Colgate came out aggressive from the opening tip, starting 4-4 from outside. The Raiders were interested in getting Keegan Records the ball down low as the Orange gave up three early rebounds for eight second chance points. Colgate led 16-9 just five minutes in.
Autry would replace McLeod with Maliq Brown at center. Quadir Copeland would come in for Taylor shortly after. On the other side of the ball, Starling got off to a hot start offensively by making his first three field goals including a transition three. Bell started hot, too, making three of his first four shots — including two threes. Yet Colgate led 21-17 at the second media timeout with a 10-3 rebounding edge. Kyle Cuffe checked in at the 10:54 mark for Bell.
Williams made his first appearance of the season for Syracuse at the 9:46 mark. It was mostly tough sledding for the junior as he missed his first three jumpers. He’d play just five first half minutes without recording a stat.
Syracuse went to the press and forced a turnover. Copeland scored inside after the Colgate miscue. He followed that up with an offensive rebound and put-back to get Syracuse back to within two.
Colgate responded with an 11-0 run behind transition buckets as Chandler Baker and Jalen Cox connected from outside and Ryan Moffatt had a layup. Colgate led 35-25 at that point, forcing a Syracuse timeout. Records then hit from deep right after and extended Colgate’s lead to 38-25.
Syracuse went back to the press with 3:45 remaining in the first, but to little avail. The ball seemed to stick for Syracuse as players decided to go one on one. A Bell bucket temporarily stopped the bleeding, but Braeden Smith pulled up from three on the next possession and buried it.
Mintz tried to draw a foul the next play but didn’t get a whistle. Frustrated, he fouled Smith near halfcourt, who split a pair to give his team a 44-27 lead after Mintz was whistled for an intentional foul. On the second to last Syracuse possession of the half, Taylor hit a three to get within 16. Colgate missed its final shot of the half, but took a 46-30 lead into the break on a 25-12 rebounding edge.
Colgate picked up right where it left off in the second half, scoring six unanswered behind Records and Jeff Woodward inside to jump out to a 22 point lead. Autry called his penultimate timeout with 17:02 remaining.
The Orange wouldn’t go without a fight, however. Bell connected on a pair of threes and Mintz made a signature reverse layup as Syracuse brought the deficit to 15. A Bell floater made it 57-44 as Autry inserted Williams and Copeland to the lineup with 12:36 remaining and went back to the press.
Bell then hit another three to bring Colgate’s lead to ten. Then a Starling floater got it to within eighth with just under ten minutes to play as Matt Langel called timeout.
Syracuse stuck with its press and continued its effort to mount the comeback. Colgate would respond and bring the lead back to 12 but a Brown reverse layup following a Bell steal would get it back to ten at the under eight minute media timeout.
Then, another Mintz reverse layup brought it to eight. After a Raiders put-back bucket inside, Mintz scored on a three point play to make it 64-57 Colgate with six minutes left. Syracuse stuck with the press but Smith answered again for Colgate from mid-range. Two Mintz free throws cut the lead back to seven and then a steal by him at halfcourt led to a finish at the rim as Mintz cut Colgate’s lead to five with five minutes left. Langel called its penultimate timeout.
Out of the timeout, Taylor picked up a steal and Mintz was fouled at the rim. He split a pair and Syracuse trailed by four. Colgate answered with a Records bucket down low that brought the lead back to six.
Syracuse wasn’t done throwing jabs.
A Taylor three and a Starling put-back made the score 70-67 with five minutes to go. Then the press forced another Colgate turnover.
On the ensuing play, Chris Bell tied it with a three from the wing. Syracuse came all the way back to take the lead when a pair of Starling free throws made it 72-70 with one minute remaining.
Out of sorts and short on answers, the Raiders continued to unwind down the stretch with turnovers as a Brown steal and slam made it 74-70. Then two Brown free throws brought the Orange lead to six. A Colgate three cut Syracuse’s lead to three late, but Mintz was able to close out with free throws down the stretch as Syracuse moved to 3-0.
Bell led Syracuse in scoring with 25 points. Mintz finished with 23 points and 8 assists. Starling had 13 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists.
Colgate won the rebounding battle 44-32. Syracuse won the turnover battle 19-7.
Syracuse heads west for the Maui Invitational, which will played at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu following the Maui wildfires in August. The Orange take on Tennessee in Game 1 of the event on Monday. Tip is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. ET/9:30 a.m. HST. The game will air on ESPN2.