The 2017-18 Syracuse men’s basketball is a cockroach. It doesn’t always look pretty, but it just refuses to die.
That was the case again in the Orange’s 60-56 win over Arizona State in a thrilling First Four battle Wednesday in Dayton. Neither team led by more than seven at any point, and neither team’s fan base had any fingernails left to chew by the time the final buzzer sounded.
But when it was all said and done, SU lives to see another day, thanks in large part to a career night from a freshman who has flashed dreamy potential at different points throughout his first collegiate season.
Oshae Brissett was the best player on the floor Wednesday, repeatedly delivering clutch shots, rebounds he had no business grabbing, and sparks to a lifeless SU offense. Brissett finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds, and he might have vaulted himself into the first round of a couple NBA teams’ draft boards. It happened with Malachi Richardson, and it can happen with Brissett.
Brissett picked up the slack for Frank Howard, who — just like the team he quarterbacks — lived up to his reputation Wednesday. He opened the game on a tear, seemingly free of symptoms of the strep throat that has been bothering him all week. The junior point guard scored eight points in the first six minutes, including a couple of triples that convinced everyone that his jumper was on when it mattered most.
But then, Howard went silent. He didn’t score for nearly 30 minutes of game time, and pretty much disappeared from the action altogether. Perhaps the illness caught up with him, or perhaps he simply reverted to the Jekyll and Hyde act he’s displayed throughout his collegiate career. Either way, SU went from relying on three guys to shoulder the entire offensive load to two.
They were enough. Brissett’s 23 and Tyus Battle’s 15 powered Syracuse to Detroit, where the ‘Cuse meets TCU Friday night in the First Round. Yes, that means Jamie Dixon is waiting.
But for now, don’t worry about that. Syracuse is moving on. For the second time in the past three years, the Orange carries the feel of a team ready to prove its many doubters wrong.
Once again, SU simply won’t die.