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Syracuse men’s basketball: Three takeaways from 79-75 victory over Colgate

Never a doubt!

Colgate v Syracuse
Chris Bell #4 of the Syracuse Orange reacts after making a three-point basket during the first half against the Colgate Raiders at JMA Wireless Dome on November 14, 2023 in Syracuse, New York.
Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange trailed for over 36 minutes on Monday night, and by as many as 24 points in the second half, against in-state foe Colgate — and improved to 3-0 on the season.

What?

It was a comeback for the ages and an early classic in Adrian Autry’s tenure as head coach. It wasn't pretty. In fact, it was quite ugly for a while there. But there was an increased intensity on the glass in the second half, a full-court press that caused havoc for the Raiders and a career-high 25 points for Chris Bell that led the way for the Orange.

Here are three takeaways:

Saved by the Bell

When Syracuse needed a big-time performance, Chris Bell answered the call. Bell scored a career-high 25 points in Monday’s win over Colgate. He went 6-of-14 from deep, four of which came in the second half.

Bell’s final 3-pointer came with 1:38 left to tie the game at 70. JJ Starling hit a layup with 2:38 to go to cut the deficit to three. SU and Colgate exchanged a few possessions before Bell stepped into a 3-pointer off a Judah Mintz pass. SU had finally tied it up — and never looked back. The Orange didn’t trail again on its way to a four-point victory.

Bell saved his best performance of his young career for a night when SU needed every bit of it.

Colgate v Syracuse Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

Syracuse Press

In recent years, Syracuse has never had a ton of success with the press. In its defense, Jim Boeheim didn’t press very often. It was almost always out of desperation. Tuesday night, really, was no different — other than the fact it worked.

Syracuse had nine steals in the second half and forced Colgate to turn it over 14 times. That led to 20 points for the Orange, which ultimately was the difference.

The Orange was able to use its athleticism in the full-court press. Whether it was trapping the inbounds pass in the near corner or swiping the ball from a Colgate guard running up the court — SU’s press sped up the game immensely and proved to be too much for the Raiders.

A tale of two halves from deep

Over the last two matchups, Colgate made itself very comfortable in the Dome and shot the lights out. Syracuse knew it needed to control that narrative to have a chance on Monday. And for the first 20 minutes, the Orange didn’t have an answer.

Colgate started the game 4-for-4 from deep, and finished the first half 8-of-15. The Raiders routinely found the open man with an extra pass and put on an offensive clinic.

SU tried to match Colgate shot for shot — and failed. The Orange went 4-of-17 and trailed by 16 at the break.

The second half proved to be much better for Adrian Autry’s group. There was a higher intensity on the defensive end — and certainly a little luck — that led to the Raiders coming back down to reality. Colgate went 1-of-9 from deep in the second half. Anything more would’ve probably led to the Raiders third straight win in the Dome, and anything less probably wouldn’t have been believable given their 2-year run in the Dome.

When it was all said and done, each team made nine 3’s and Syracuse snapped its two-game skid against Colgate.

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It doesn’t get any easier from here. Next up, Syracuse travels to Maui for a matchup with No. 7 Tennessee on Monday. Tip-off is scheduled for 2:30pm ET on ESPN2.