In what started off as a sluggish offensive game on both sides, the bench for the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (8-3) came through when it mattered most to spark a 30-point turnaround and beat the Oregon Ducks (7-3) 83-63 in Sioux Falls, SD.
Despite trailing by 10 points early and starting 1/10 from the field, the Orange’s bench shined for most of Saturday afternoon’s game with Quadir Copeland (15 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists), Maliq Brown (13 points, 4 steals), Kyle Cuffe (8 points) and Benny Williams (8 points) all leading the way against the Ducks. Syracuse’s bench outscored Oregon non-starters 44-18 and also held significant advantages in points in the paint (50-28) and fastbreak points (17-7).
Judah Mintz still finished with a team-high 18 points to go with 5 assists, 4 steals and 6 turnovers, while Starling built off his recent performance against Georgetown with 14 points on 6/9 shooting versus Oregon. In total, four different Syracuse players finished in double-figures and six ended with eight points or more.
The Orange held what was a short-handed Oregon team to 36% shooting from the field, including 4/27 from three. Syracuse and Oregon also combined for 38 total turnovers (19 each). Kwame Evans Jr. (17 points, 6/11 shooting), Jackson Shelstad (16 points, 6/16 from the field) and Kario Oquendo (11 points) were the only two players to score more than 10 points for the Ducks.
Even with Oregon missing some very notable names (the running list includes Jesse Zarzuela, N’Faly Dante, Nate Bittle and Mookie Cook), it was impressive to see multiple players step up yet again for the Orange — Syracuse’s non-starters held a 26-point advantage in bench points against the Ducks.
Both teams struggled to get quality looks out of the gate. Syracuse and Oregon combined to go 3/15 from the field in the game’s first five minutes, with the Orange missing their first six shots (four of which were from three). The Ducks were able to score on their first two possessions around the basket, but a roughly four-minute cold streak allowed Syracuse to hang around early.
A free throw by Naheem McLeod gave the Orange their first point of the game, while Mintz scored Syracuse’s first basket in transition off this alley-oop pass from Chris Bell:
Judah on the break pic.twitter.com/kFrzWCMO6t— Syracuse Men’s Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) December 17, 2023
Mintz’s fastbreak dunk was Syracuse’s only basket with 13 minutes left to go in the first half. The Orange started off 1/11 from the field with four turnovers, and a 10-1 run by the Ducks put Syracuse behind 14-4 early. The crazy part: at this point in the game, Oregon was still shooting under 38% (6/16) from the field.
The Orange’s defense looked mostly fine early, but the offense really looked sluggish for a while against a Ducks team missing some of its best players. Coach Autry went deep into his bench looking for a spark plug on offense.
Sure enough, the five-man lineup Mintz next to Cuffe Jr., Copeland, Williams and Brown did the trick. Shortly after Autry inserted that lineup, Syracuse went on a 13-1 run over the course of four minutes.
Kyle flies high on the break! pic.twitter.com/wNeDqVKM3y— Syracuse Men’s Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) December 17, 2023
Brown scored two quick baskets during the run, while Cuffe and Williams each got easy looks in transition off misses from Oregon (including a thunderous, one-hand slam by Benny). Cuffe also nailed two-straight three-point shots, and his eight early points powered Syracuse’s bench to take a lead (17-15) for the first time all game with around nine minutes left in the half.
Oregon briefly retook a one-point lead, but Syracuse’s bench helped the Orange outscore the Ducks 13-6 to close out the half and enter halftime with a 33-25 lead — an 18-point turnaround after the Orange trailed by 10 to start.
Despite Mintz shooting 1/5 from the field in the first half, Syracuse’s bench scored 20 points in the first half with Cuffe’s 8 points leading the way. Williams, Starling and Brown also had multiple baskets to keep the Orange’s offense afloat while Shelstad scored 10 points to lead Oregon.
Even with Syracuse’s struggles to score, Oregon was held to 30% shooting (10/33) in the first half, including 3/18 from three. Each team had 11 turnovers each heading into the second half.
A three-pointer by Justin Taylor on the Orange’s first possession in the second half extended Syracuse’s lead to double-digits (42-30). Mintz finally started to get going with some good makes around the basket, while Copeland and Brown also chipped in on offense.
Oregon was able to hang around at the start of the half, but turnovers continued to plague the Ducks especially with Syracuse continuing to get good offense around the rim and in transition.
Syracuse’s lead ballooned to as much as 23 points (70-47) with less than six minutes in the game remaining. From there, Oregon never had a chance to make any reasonable comeback effort and handed the Orange their third-straight win by double-digits.
The Orange will look to close out the non-conference slate back in the JMA Wireless Dome on Thursday night against Niagara and enter ACC play with some momentum.