SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP)—When Syracuse pulled a switcheroo on Manhattan, the Jaspers were lost.
The 19th-ranked Orangemen, whose tough 2-3 zone defense helped them win the national championship last season, changed to a stiff man-to-man in the second half Wednesday night and rallied behind Billy Edelin for a 69-63 victory after trailing by eight points at halftime.
In the first half against Syracuse’s sluggish zone, Manhattan used the strong inside game of Jason Benton, who made all six of his shots, and the all-around play of Luis Flores, who had 15 points, to take a 42-34 halftime lead.
In the second half, the Jaspers sputtered, managing only two baskets by little-used Guy Ngarndi in the final 7:40 as they struggled to find open shots.
“When you think Syracuse, you think 2-3 zone,” said Edelin, who scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half. “I think they were coming in thinking that that’s what they were going to go up against. When we went man, it threw a monkey wrench in what they were trying to do. It made things tough for them.”
Indeed. Benton did not take a shot in the second half and made only two free throws, and Flores managed only seven points on 2-for-9 shooting playing against Edelin and Josh Pace.
“It was a gamble,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “We gave up 42 points in the first half, so I figured we weren’t going to do any worse. We were either going to win the game or lose by 15. Our zone wasn’t good tonight. We just stood around.”
It was the fourth straight victory for Syracuse (4-1) and the Orangemen’s second win over Manhattan (3-2) in 2003. They beat the Jaspers 76-65 in the first round of the NCAA East Regional in March. But the Jaspers were within 61-56 with 6:57 left in that one, and this time the Orangemen didn’t have Carmelo Anthony.
“I thought we battled,” Manhattan coach Bobby Gonzalez said. “We could have stolen this game. We knew they were going to turn it up in the second half. We weathered it, we battled with them. I’m a little disappointed.”
Gerry McNamara scored 16 points for Syracuse, while Hakim Warrick had 12 points and 10 rebounds and freshman Louie McCroskey added eight points.
Dave Holmes had 12 points and nine rebounds for Manhattan.
Syracuse shot 51.1 percent from the field and finished with a 37-26 rebounding edge but committed 22 turnovers.
Edelin, held to three points in only nine minutes in the first half, came alive early in the second. He hit a floater along the baseline, then converted his second steal of the game into a layup as Syracuse scored the first eight points to tie the game at 42.
“The 8-0 run really hurt us,” Flores said. “It put our backs against the wall, and we weren’t able to respond. When the game was hanging in the balance, we were not able to grasp the momentum and emotion of the game.’
Edelin’s layup with 13:53 to go gave him 10 points in the period and the Orangemen a 50-48 lead.
“Billy got aggressive in the second half and got to the basket,” Boeheim said. “This was a game you could lose very easily.”
Ngarndi hit a jumper from the top of the key to move Manhattan within 57-54 with 7:40 left. McNamara hit a wide-open 3 from the left wing 25 seconds later, and then the Syracuse defense really clamped down. The Jaspers did not score another basket until Ngarndi made one with 15 seconds left.