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Three takeaways from Syracuse basketball’s 20-point win over Oregon

Syracuse won its first (D1) neutral court game of the season to move to 8-3.

Syracuse v Georgetown Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

It wasn’t pretty, but the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team was able to overcome an early ten point deficit to defeat the Oregon Ducks 83-63 from South Dakota on Sunday afternoon. The Orange (8-3, 0-1) were led by strong bench play in the first half until Judah Mintz and JJ Starling took control of the second half as the Orange earned its first (DI) neutral court win of the season.

Syracuse hadn’t played a game in eight days and sure looked rusty to start as both teams combined for 22 first half turnovers and 35 percent shooting. But Syracuse pushed through the sloppy first half play to jump out to a double-digit lead in the second half and never looked back.

Mintz led all scorers with 18 to go with 5 assists and 4 steals but 6 turnovers. Starling added 14 points. Quadir Copeland continued his strong play off the bench to stuff the stat sheet with 15 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 block and 1 steal.

Syracuse won the rebounding battle 36-31 and had a 50-28 points in the paint edge. Both teams had 19 turnovers. And that point leads us into the takeaways.

Syracuse wins with defense

Ball security was at a premium from the Sanford Pentagon, but Syracuse was able to win by beefing up its defense department. Both teams were ham-handed with the ball at various times and gave away their fair share of possessions. But the Orange dug in defensively and has looked like a much-improved team on that end of the floor over the last two games.

Granted, Oregon was without key players but the Orange were active in man defense and limited the Ducks to 22-61 (36.1%) shooting and 4-27 (14.8%) from outside. Syracuse hurried the Ducks and forced them into uncomfortable situations in the halfcourt, leading to 19 turnovers.

That’s a good last couple of defensive outings for the Orange.

Bench steps up

With Syracuse getting off to a slow start it was the bench that gave a spark. In this first half Kyle Cuffe scored eight meaningful points to begin a run. Maliq Brown continues to be a reliable option at center as he finished with 13 points, 2 rebounds and 4 steals. Benny Williams played a season-high 18 minutes and finished with 8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.

And Copeland stole the show as he once again provided energy off the bench, particularly when Syracuse was sluggish to start. The guard from Philadelphia has stepped into an important role for Adrian Autry this season and continued to develop. Although he’s sometimes overzealous, his versatility is an especially valuable asset as Copeland helps alleviate pressure from defenses as another ball-handling option. He’s got good court vision, is a willing passer and he finishes well around the rim. On the other side of the ball he can guard one through four.

All in, the Syracuse bench outscored Oregon’s 44-18. Autry has gone deep into his rotation at times and today it paid off as the best bench play of the season.

A game of firsts

For the first time in program history Syracuse played a game in the state of South Dakota. Syracuse also picked up its first win over Oregon (in two attempts).

More importantly for this season’s concerns, Syracuse pocketed its first quadrant two victory. Oregon came into the day ranked No. 54 in NET and will likely drop in that ranking, but still hold firm in Q2. A quadrant breakdown by NET as a refresher:

Quadrant 1: Home (1-30), Neutral (1-50), Away (1-75)
Quadrant 2: Home (31-75), Neutral (51-100), Away (76-135)
Quadrant 3: Home (76-160), Neutral (101-200), Away (136-240)
Quadrant 4: Home (161-362), Neutral (201-362), Away (241-362)

Syracuse has no bad losses to this point, but came into the day 0-3 in quadrant one games and 0-0 in quadrant two. This game will stay in the quadrant two bucket for now but if Oregon improves to 50 or better in the NET it would move into quadrant one.

Of course, Oregon was without some key players today including three starters but this is still an important victory for Syracuse. NET rankings aren’t static, meaning if the Ducks improve throughout conference play, its NET ranking could rise and help Syracuse’s résumé.

Regardless of quadrant, this is Syracuse’s best win of the season and an important one to secure as the last opportunity for a quality win in the non-conference schedule.

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Note: Syracuse has now played a game in 39 states. The Orange haven’t played a game in any of the following: Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming