Defensively, the Orange frustrated the Broncos. SU forced a whopping eleven first-half turnovers. Many questioned if the Orange, who at times struggled to rebound this season, would be able to stop Western Michigan’s 6’11” senior center Shayne Whittington. Syracuse’s trademark 2-3 zone made it nearly impossible for the Broncos’ guards to find Whittington inside. He finished with just eleven points. Western Michigan guard David Brown was also uncharacteristically quiet. In the Broncos’ MAC tournament championship victory over Toledo he scored 32 points. Against the Orange he finished with only nine points. Finally, Syracuse’s trio of big men (Rakeem Christmas, Jeremi Grant and Baye Mouus Keita) did an excellent job of protecting SU’s rim. The three forwards blocked four of Western Michigan’s shots.
Syracuse also broke out of its long-winded shooting slump today. After averaging a horrific 39.1% from the field over its last five games, SU shot 49%. Trevor Cooney played like the sharpshooter Orange fans love hitting four three-pointers. Tyler Ennis also played one of his best games of the year. He controlled the offense for the Orange, dished out some beautiful assists and quietly scored sixteenpoints. Jeremi Grant converted two monstrous slam-dunks and was a force in the paint for all of the 29 minutes he played. The Orange put on a complete performance in the win, which is encouraging after the disastrous end to its regular season.
Syracuse now faces 11-seed Dayton in Buffalo on Saturday. The Flyers knocked off the 6-seed in the South region, Ohio State, 60-59 earlier today. Dayton is a gritty team from the Atlantic 10 conference and will definitely give Syracuse a better game than Western Michigan. The start time for that game is TBA. The Fizz felt like a blowout win might be exactly what the Orange needs to give it some momentum after the poor end to the season. That’s exactly what Orange Nation got.
Posted: Connor Morrissette