Sometimes you just have to laugh at sports. Sometimes the completely unexpected happens. That’s what happened today in Atlanta.
Kenpom gave Syracuse a 38% of beating Georgia Tech on the road Saturday, yet the Orange pummeled the Yellow Jackets, 97-64.
This game will be remembered as that time Elijah Hughes went off in the first half at Atlanta. Syracuse’s leading scorer came out of the gates with a straight Alpha mentality. He wanted to take over the care and wasted no time doing it. Hughes finished with a career-high 33 points.
By the first media timeout, Hughes had hit four catch and shoot threes. After standing and clapping for what felt like hours in Barclays, Syracuse got off to the exact opposite start today when everyone was least expecting it.
The Orange led 48-28 at the half. Hughes had 26 of that at the break. One of the most impressive first half performances from a SU hooper in recent memory.
In the second half, Eli passed the baton to the other microwave shooter on the Orange roster, Buddy Boeheim. He scored 11 straight to start the half and finished with 20 of his career high 26 in the final half alone.
Despite the game being out of reach, the second half is when Syracuse really made some necessary strides as a team.
On top of Buddy breaking out of his slump in a big way, Marick Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe also had two of their best games of the season.
Dolezaj finished with 11 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists Saturday. He played with noticeable aggressiveness all day. From crashing the glass, diving for loose balls and driving to the rack, the junior looked more confident.
Sidibe has shown flashes, like Colgate where he had 14 rebounds and 12 points this season, but seeing it against power five competition is something different. He only tallied five points and eighth rebounds. Yet, Sidibe played every minute of the first half and made a big impact. He doesn’t have to be spectacular, but more of what we saw today is so needed.
Howard Washington also looked solid in this game. Brycen Goodine didn’t play at all until around the four minute mark of the second half and Washington seems to be the back-up point guard going forward. He steadies the offense and the way Goodine is playing right now, seems like the best move.
Two stats that really stand out from the final box score: 3-point shooting and rebounding.
The Orange out-rebounded the Yellow Jackets 40-30 and shot it 42% from 3PT range (14-33).
This game will go down as that time Elijah torched Georgia Tech in a game Syracuse desperately needed and it should.
The role players like Boeheim, Dolezaj, and Sidibe playing much better though is the biggest takeaway for the rest of the season. This young team needed something to give them confidence badly. Elijah Hughes gave them that early at Atlanta. Now it’s time to find out if it is here to stay.