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Syracuse 81, Cornell 70: Orange survive late rally from Big Red

Foul trouble and turnovers plagued Syracuse as a late rally by Cornell gave the Orange a scare. Still, Syracuse was able to close out with a win.

Cornell v Syracuse Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team had just about all it could handle from the Cornell Big Red, but was able to win 81-70 in the 128th meeting between the two schools. Syracuse moved to 28-0 against Cornell in the dome to win its 43rd straight against the school just 51 miles away.

Two late dunks from Quadir Copeland and Judah Mintz made the margin wider than the final score would otherwise suggest, but the Orange (6-3) was able to hold off the Big Red (7-2) from the free throw line and get out of Dodge. Mintz led all scorers with 28 points while Chris Bell and Justin Taylor added 19 and 15 points, respectively.

Junior forward Benny Williams did not play for the fourth time this season. Autry went with the same starters of Mintz, JJ Starling, Bell, Taylor and Naheem McLeod.

Both teams started flat defensively out of the gate as Cornell drew first blood on a backdoor cut for an easy bucket. Early threes from Syracuse — one from Bell and two from Mintz — gave Syracuse a 10-8 lead, however, at the first media timeout. Maliq Brown then replaced McLeod at center.

Taylor joined in on the marksman-making as he nailed a three from the right wing immediately after the timeout. Quadir Copeland then replaced Bell and made things happen initially by grabbing a rebound and steal, but also had a careless turnover against Cornell’s press — one of SU’s four giveaways to that point. Starling scored on a floater in that stretch and the Orange led 15-12 at the second media timeout.

Newly minted Syracuse football head coach was introduced at the under 12-minute media timeout, stating: “Let’s make sure we cheer these guys on all the way through March Madness. Go Orange.”

From there Taylor stepped up by making his second three. Kyle Cuffe then had a steal and transition layup, followed by a Taylor jab step, drive and finish, giving Syracuse a 24-16 lead.

Bell connected on a corner three on an out-of-bounds underneath to boost the lead to nine. Mintz then made a shot from mid-range and a transition hit-ahead from Copeland led to a Taylor lob to McLeod to make it 33-20 Orange.

From there Cornell would go on an 11-1 run over the last five minutes of the half on a pair of threes from Cooper Noard and one from Keller Boothby. The Big Red had the edge on the boards 25-22 at the break as Syracuse held a narrow 34-31 lead. Mintz led all scorers at the intermission with 11 points.

Cornell v Syracuse Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images

Out of the break Syracuse was intent to attack the paint. Drives and scores at the rim by Mintz, Starling and Bell gave Syracuse some separation. This opened up the outside game as Bell knocked down back-to-back threes and Mintz connected on his third make of the night from downtown to give the Orange a 51-42 lead at the first timeout of the second half.

Syracuse gave up an open three and easy dunk but Copeland found Mintz on another three. Shortly after, Mintz knocked down his fifth three of the night in just seven attempts. Syracuse, by the way, played mostly man but still mixed in the 2-3 zone on out of bounds underneaths. Copeland picked up his fourth foul with 12:45 to play and was forced to sit as Autry went with the starters plus Brown at center.

Starling, who played the best of any Syracuse player against Virginia, continued his struggles on Tuesday night. He fouled a three point shooter and shortly after Mintz joined Copeland with four fouls with over eleven minutes remaining in the game. Autry decided to sit Mintz and go with Starling at point guard and Cuffe at the opposite guard.

Brown stepped up with a few important rebounds during that time. He found Taylor for three after an offensive board. Then he poked away a steal and Bell knocked down a baseline jumper to give Syracuse a 64-50 lead.

Then Cornell put some game pressure on Syracuse with Mintz out as the game turned into a nail-biter.

The Big Red cut the lead to eighth on another Boothby three. Starling answered by scoring on a layup, but then gave up an inside score to Sean Hanson and committed a foul. On the next Cornell possession, a Chris Manon layup inside cut Syracuse’s lead to just six as Mintz came back in off the bench with just under four minutes left.

Then, after a Bell turnover, a transition dunk by Isaiah Gray made it a three point game with three minutes left as Cornell looked determined to complete the rally. On the next Syracuse possession, Copeland forced a jumpball after a missed shot which retained possession. That set up a Starling mid-range jumper to give Syracuse some breathing room at 73-68.

Then, two free throws from Copeland made it a three possession game at 75-68. Cornell had next to nothing doing from there and two late dunks from Copeland and Mintz allowed Syracuse to pull away late and leave its unbeaten home record intact.

Final stats

Syracuse shot 29-68 (42.6%) from the floor and 13-32 (40.6%) from three. Cornell finished 26-65 (40%) from the floor and 9-33 (27.3%) from three. Syracuse won the rebounding battle 45-42. Cornell had a 34-30 points in the paint edge but turned it over three more times than Syracuse.

Mintz led Syracuse with 28 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists. Bell had 19 points, 3 rebounds and 4 blocks. Taylor added 15 points and 8 rebounds.

Next up

Syracuse hits the road to take on Georgetown from Washington, D.C. this Saturday. That game tips at 11:30 a.m. EST from Capital One Arena and airs on Fox.