Syracuse is now 0-2 against Power Five opponents. The Orange lost to Oklahoma State 86-72 at Barclays Center on Wednesday. They’ll play Penn State in the losers bracket of the NIT Tipoff on Friday. This was the good and the (mostly) bad from the game.
Elijah Hughes was ready to play and win this game. He put up 28 points on 8/15 shooting. But Hughes got no help from his teammates in the backcourt. Buddy and Girard could not hit a three, a very important part of both their games. The guard duo finished a combined 2/14 from deep.
Let’s spread the wealth on the Oklahoma State side for this one. Chris Harris Jr. hadn’t scored more than five points in a game this season. But the freshman guard came off the bench and nailed three consecutive triples. It capped off a huge run for the Cowboys to give them a 43-31 lead at the half.
Yor Anei dominated on the interior. He had 19 points, eight boards and a pair of blocks.
Issac Likekele was a beast bringing defensive ball pressure. He scored a career-high 26 points and added eight assists. He was also 8/11 from the field. Likekele was the best player on the floor.
Syracuse was already down 11-0, having burned one timeout. But the Orange have a plan. They can take advantage of Oklahoma State’s pressure defense with the backdoor cut. Marek Dolezaj fakes the pass to Hughes on the perimeter, get the defender to jump, and Hughes slashes to the rim. He takes the bounce pass, he’s wide open. But he slips on the floor and loses the ball. This was the icing on the cake for what was an atrocious start.
Don’t you just love how momentum can build in the sport of basketball? Syracuse got back in it with a 7-0 run in the second half. Girard started things off with a pick-pocket and breakaway layup. The the Orange started double-teaming in the halfcourt defense. The Cowboys turned it over. Hughes finished an up-and-under layup off a backdoor cut on the other end. Now the crowd got into it. OSU is flustered, and forces up an airball. Here’s the moment. Girard wide open at the top of the key. You know that anticipation of the crowd wanting to explode? Money. Timeout OSU.
The lower bowl at the Barclays Center was less than full capacity, but 90% Orange fans. So the stand-and-clap was very much happening in the arena. And it was brutal. Hughes slipped (see Worst Play), Bourama Sidibe missed a bunny and Hughes also air-balled a wide open three. The stand-and-clap ended at 13:33 with a layup by Hughes off a back-door cut.
Syracuse started handling Oklahoma State’s pressure better after the opening stretch. Transition offense was the number one key. Dolezaj pushed the ball up the floor on a few occasions. Sidibe found a dunk off a lob pass to counter the Cowboys’ post fronting. Backdoor cutting continued to open up as well. The Orange took a nine-point lead with 8:13 to play in H1.
Worst Foul Trouble
Hughes and Sidibe left the game late in the first half with three fouls, to which Oklahoma State responded with a big 13-4 run to end the frame. In the second half, the tight whistles continued. Hughes picked up his 4th foul defending a hopeless heave at the end of the shotclock. He argued the jumpshooter kicked out his leg. Marek Dolezaj joined the party, picking up his 4th foul in the 2nd.