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Syracuse Basketball: Orange win close one meant to be a blowout

SU kept things a little too close but found a way to squeak out a much-needed bounceback win.

NCAA Basketball: North Florida at Syracuse
DaJuan Coleman was one of many to produce big numbers in the win.
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

This was a game full of lessons and migraines for all.

The Syracuse Orange squeaked out an intense victory against the now 3-7 North Florida Osprey with a score of 77-71. The Osprey kept it interesting all of the first half, but an early run after halftime gave the Orange a commanding lead. Everyone thought it was over until Osprey senior Dallas Moore decided to make things chaotic.

The guard went on a scoring spree in the second half, finishing with a game-high 30 points as he helped the Osprey cut the lead to single digits with little time remaining. A game against North Florida isn’t supposed to be this stressful for Coach Boeheim and his crew, but despite the tough win, Boeheim took away some positives from that second half run.

“In the second half we got going and had a nice rhythm,” the veteran coach said. “We got the ball inside. We made some shots.” Boeheim was pleased with his teams play from a starters viewpoint, but for his bench, a complete opposite opinion was had by the head coach.

“We got control of the game and then we tried to get some people into the game and they weren’t ready,” Boeheim said of his disappointment towards his second unit. The head coach made a change in the lineup, inserting freshman guard Tyus Battle in for the veteran Tyler Roberson.

The move was offensive-based as Battle brings a more complete offensive arsenal to the game in comparison to Roberson’s inability to score. Battle finished with 19 points on six of seven shooting, and the offense looked more fluid with two guards attacking the rim.

“I always have the need to prove something every time I step onto the floor,” Battle said on if he had to prove anything in his first start. “I just try to do the little things, hustle, make good plays on the floor.”

The Orange liked what they saw from their top recruit in an increased role, and with Battle taking over for Roberson, this offense now has the capability to play more versatile than before. Battle can drive, shoot and even pass exceptionally, something Roberson couldn’t do in his role.

Another outstanding performance from the win was the play of point guard Frank Howard, who finished with 10 points, 13 assists, and four steals. Howard showed poise and confidence running the offense, and playing with Battle allowed him to not have the stress of being the only playmaker on the floor.

“I think I did a pretty good job,” Howard said on his ability to drive and make plays for his teammates. “They collapsed a lot so I just wanted to get in there and make plays.”

With Howard and Battle now manning the top of the zone, Boeheim can now slide Andrew White III down to the bottom of the zone allowing the athletes up top to provide enough ball pressure to force a bad pass.

White was the star of the game, finishing with 26 points on 7-13 from three-point range. Without White’s dominating first half, the Orange may have found themselves in even more trouble. The Orange have gotten consistent play from White all season long, but for SU to win big games, White is going to need to teach his teammates a few things.

The Orange return on Monday against the Connecticut Huskies as the two schools try to renew a rivalry at the site of one of the most historic basketball games ever: Madison Square Garden.