SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Adrian Autry’s head coaching tenure is off to a near-perfect start. After surviving a scare from New Hampshire 48 hours ago, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (2-0) looked looser on the court and raised its shooting percentage by 12 points in an 89-77 win over Canisius (0-1) on Wednesday night. Judah Mintz led the way with a career-high 26 points, and J.J. Starling chipped in 17 points with seven rebounds and seven assists.
“I liked the way we kept our composure... This team is young, but they’ve got some experience. I thought they did a good job of finishing out,” head coach Adrian Autry said.
Starling set the tone on the game’s opening possession, driving to the bucket and twirling in an acrobatic layup through contact for an and-1. SU’s defense also started out strong, as a Naheem McLeod block three minutes in led to a Justin Taylor triple in transition.
While McLeod notched three blocks in the first half, his aggressiveness also forced him out of the game with two fouls in the first nine minutes. SU’s offense began to stall without their big man available to set screens. Quadir Copeland broke the trend when he entered from the bench. With the ball on the wing, the forward exploded to the hoop and fired up the home fans with a rim-rocking slam to put the Orange up 24-19.
From that moment on, SU began to move without the ball on offense. Mintz found Taylor open in the corner for another trifecta after an off-ball screen by Maliq Brown on an unsuspecting defender. Later, Brown stood with the rock at the top of the key and dished a perfect backdoor pass to a cutting Mintz from that same corner, leading to a two-handed flush.
Autry put his squad in man-to-man defense the entire first half, similar to Monday’s contest against New Hampshire. The Golden Griffins countered by repeatedly dragging McLeod out of the paint, allowing for easy blow-by layups from their guards.
Despite allowing 32 first-half points, Syracuse’s hot shooting from distance gave it a 41-32 edge at the break. Chris Bell, Kyle Cuffe, Mintz and Taylor each made a triple as the Orange went 5-for-11 from deep through 20 minutes.
But SU looked sluggish again to start the second half, and a layup by Canisus’ Siem Uijtendaal off Mintz cut the Orange lead down to five with under 17 minutes to play. Two offensive rebounds by McLeod on Syracuse’s following possession ended with a second-chance made jumper by Starling near the baseline. Taylor drove to the rack and finished with a hoop plus the harm moments later, extending the home team’s lead back to double-digits.
The Orange defense also stepped up when it mattered most. Autry’s man-to-man scheme held the Golden Griffins without a point for over four minutes, highlighted by two forced turnovers and a rejection by Brown. SU extended its advantage from six to 20 points during this time span.
“I thought we had a really good run defensive run in the second half. Seven stops in a row. That really opened the game for us,” Autry said.
It also helped that Mintz looked like a man on a mission offensively. The sophomore converted three and-1’s in the second half alone and looked strong, finishing at the rim. Eight of his 19 second-half points came from the charity stripe. He even splashed home a four-point play during ‘Cuse’s 14-0 run.
“I was just taking what the defense was giving me,” Mintz said. “When my opportunities came, I took them.”
Judah with a 4-point play!— Syracuse Men’s Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) November 9, 2023
The Orange turned on cruise control from there, coasting to an 89-77 win. Mintz knocked down two free throws with less than a minute left to give him a career-high 26 points. Starling put the finishing touches on what he started with a runner in the lane as time winded down. The pair shot an identical 8-for-15 each from the field, combining for 34 points.
“We feed off each other. Once [Mintz] gets going, I get going and vice versa. [You can] definitely look forward to seeing that this year,” Starling said. “It’s going to be fun.”
The Orange will be back in action next Tuesday when the Colgate Raiders make their annual trip to the Dome.