No. 7 Syracuse 72, Albany 55
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP)—When Syracuse’s offense struggled, the seventh-ranked Orange stepped up their perimeter defense.
Hakim Warrick had 22 points and 14 rebounds and Syracuse held Albany to 6-of-25 shooting on 3-pointers in a 72-55 victory on Tuesday night. It was the fifth straight win for the Orange (12-1) and their seventh without a loss in their series against the Great Danes (4-5).
Syracuse won convincingly despite committing 19 turnovers, shooting just 38.9 percent and receiving a combined eight points from starters Gerry McNamara and Josh Pace, who together were averaging 27 points per game.
Not the sort of game you want with the conference schedule set to begin next week.
“Obviously, we had too many turnovers. We were just sloppy on offense,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said after the 688th victory of his career. “We had some good looks and didn’t finish them. We were just fortunate our defense was good enough.”
The Great Danes were shooting an impressive 47.6 percent on 3-pointers but missed their first seven attempts against the Orange and also finished with 20 turnovers.
“We’ve shot the ball well all year long, and we knew we’d get some open shots,” Albany coach Will Brown said. “We didn’t knock the shots down, and to make it worse we turned the ball over too many times. When you’re struggling to shoot the ball and struggling to score, you’ve at least got to make sure that you get a shot every time down the floor. We didn’t do that. Our kids were off three days for the holidays. We were sluggish tonight. We had the holiday legs.”
Demetris Nichols gave the Orange a big boost with 10 points after missing three games with a sore back and Louie McCroskey had nine. But Syracuse suffered a setback when backup center Darryl Watkins injured his right thumb in the first half. Boeheim said it looked as though Watkins “would be lost for a very long time.”
Levi Levine had 15 points, Jamar Wilson 14, and Lucious Jordan 10 to go with seven rebounds for Albany, which was averaging nearly 74 points per game.
“Our team has had no problem scoring this year,” Brown said. “We’re known to be a good offensive team. But when Levine, Wilson and Jordan shoot a combined 14-for-47, we’re not going to beat many people.”
McNamara, coming off one of the best games of his career, a 19-point, 10-assist and nine-rebound effort against Rice, was 2-for-9 on 3-pointers. Still, he provided an early spark by hitting his only 3 of the first half and then feeding Pace on a fast-break layup to send Syracuse on a 9-0 run that set the tone.
A fallaway baseline jumper by Warrick from just inside the 3-point line put the Orange up 26-13 with 7:48 left.
Levine finally found the mark from the left wing at 8:09, and a long 3-pointer from the top of the key by Jordan moved Albany within 32-24 with 2:43 left in the first.
McNamara, who had nine assists, threw his second straight lob to Warrick, and Warrick ended the half with a one-hand dunk at the buzzer to put the Orange ahead 36-24 at the break.
The Great Danes squandered any chance they had by missing 11 of their first 13 shots in the first eight minutes of the second half and Syracuse gradually pulled away despite some sloppy play.
“I know you’re going to struggle and have your ups and downs,” said Warrick, who had five dunks. “We’re ready to step up and play against Big East competition. We’ve been getting better as a team.”
Nichols had seven points in a 56-second span to give the Orange a 20-point lead. He hit a curling layup, stole the ball and went in for another layup, and then drained his second 3-pointer of the game with 8:48 left.
“I was just happy I made the shots,” said Nichols, who lost his starting slot to McCroskey. “At any given time we can have a spurt like that. That’s what kind of team we are. That’s what makes us good.”
Albany guard Jon Iati, who led nation last year averaging 40 minutes a game and was named America East rookie of the year, sat out his third straight game with a shoulder injury. Afterward, he announced that he would undergo surgery and take a medical redshirt for the season.