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Syracuse men’s basketball: Three takeaways from ACC/SEC Challenge against LSU

“Missed dunks, airball threes. THIS is Syracuse/LSU basketball.” - James via Slack

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 28 LSU at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In what started as a messy, chaotic Tuesday night, reflective of the equally disruptive lake-effect snow piling up outside, the Syracuse Orange pulled away from LSU in the second half, cruising to an 80-57 win and handing the Tigers their 12th straight road loss. The Orange remain undefeated (4-0) on their Dome court.

Here’s what led SU to their fifth and final victory of the first month:

Judah Showcase Game

Can we talk about how in hindsight, Judah Mintz coming back saved this season before it even began? Tonight was perfect proof.

No one was having a good first half for the Orange except the sophomore guard. He outscored the rest of his teammates 17-16 during the first 20 while also being tied for most boards and assists. It continued right out of the break, where Mintz scored the first eight points of the half via a layup, a three-point play, and a straight three-point shot.

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

His shot selection was solid, but most of the focus should be on his continued ability to drive swiftly through narrow lanes and get to the basket or draw contact in the process. Judah went to the line five times in the first half alone, and converting on those plays really helped him get going as it does most games.

All told, Mintz shattered his previous career high of 26 points by running it all the way up to 33! It wasn’t the flashiest showing to get to over 30 on the night, but a) points are points, and b) his continuous presence in the paint drew more coverage to him as the night went on, opening up better shots on the wings that SU took advantage of... which is a really long-winded way of also saying, points are points (even if you aren’t the one to score them).

Free Throws Matter

As for points that Judah DID score himself...

This was my key to the game - would SU fair better at the line than they did during their Tournament last week? The short answer is yes.

Mintz is the prime example, starting off a perfect 10/10 on free throws and finishing 13/15 overall. Despite the Orange having a six-minute stretch without a field goal in the first half, the team’s 14/14 initial success rate on single shots kept the game close.

‘Cuse fought size with size, giving Naheem McLeod most of his 20 minutes early on and getting the Tigers aggravated quickly... so much so that they hit the double bonus before their locker room break.

SU’s final line was 19/23 - less than half the misses of the Tennessee loss.

Adjustments for Me, but not for Thee

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

SU couldn’t rely on free throws forever though, and Adrian Autry must’ve said the right things in halftime because his guys responded well. Judah’s 8-0 run sparked the rest of the offense, including Chris Bell, who contributed 17 second-half points after making just one shot beforehand.

Maliq Brown and Benny Williams both rebounded extremely well off the bench, and desperation set in for the Tigers as they were forced to continue chucking off-target threes. In their mind, ‘If it’s broke, keep fiddling with it until you shoot 2/22 from the arc.’

Something tells me they’ll be glad to get Real Geauxne from Syracuse after this defeat, while the home squad has good progress to take into the ACC appetizer on Saturday.