|Posted on February 11, 2018 at 3:15 PM|
Article by Dan Tortora
The Syracuse Orange men's basketball team came into their second match-up of the season with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons with potentially their least amount of depth of the 2017-18 campaign.
Syracuse has already lost true freshman point guard Howard Washington, Jr., for the season after sustaining an injury in practice to his right leg.
Redshirt-freshman forward Matthew Moyer injured his foot versus the Boston College Eagles and was able to come back recently but would not be available for this contest.
True freshman center Bourama Sidibe has been going back and forth between active and inactive status from tendonitis that has hampered his game since the beginning of the season.
This left the Orange with its starting five of junior point guard Frank Howard, shooting guard Tyus Battle, true freshmen forwards Oshae Brissett and Marek Dolezaj, and junior center Paschal Chukwu.
With teams inside the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) being able to reach to their bench for help this season, Syracuse, on the other hand, has had to rely heavily on Howard, Battle, and Brissett for offense, and Dolezaj, their best offensive opportunity off the bench, had to move to the starting lineup due to aforementioned injuries.
Early on in this game, Battle scored Syracuse's first seven points, starting off 3-for-3 from the field.
Brissett would score the next four for the Orange, making two free throws and a jumper to get the Orange ahead 11-8.
But the maybe yes, maybe no status of Sidibe swung in favor of Syracuse, with the young center coming in at the 11:44 mark of the first half and scoring about a minute into his time on the court, on a layup that gave Syracuse a 13-8 lead.
Back-to-back threes by the Orange from Howard and then Battle provided the Orange with a 22-13 advantage with 5:32 left before the break. Those came after Syracuse and Wake Forest combined to begin the game 1-for-11 from beyond the arc, Syracuse 1-for-4 and Wake Forest 0-for-7.
Howard would let it fly inside three minutes, looking for Chukwu for an alley-oop and Chukwu obliged, slamming it home for a 28-18 Orange advantage.
Syracuse would go into the break ahead 31-21 after Wake Forest junior guard Bryant Crawford connected from long range, making the team's first three-pointer in 10 tries with two seconds left on the game clock. Battle (10) and Brissett (9) went into the locker room having scored 19 of the team's 31 first-half points.
The Demon Deacons held the lead twice in the first half, at 2-0 off of a jumper by freshman guard Chaundee Brown and then at 8-7 when junior center Doral Moore went 2-for-2 at the charity stripe, but would trail for the remaining 14:33 of the first half.
Crawford would begin the second half the same way he ended the first half, with a long distance connection, bringing the game to 31-24 Syracuse. His back-to-back makes gave Wake Forest a 2-for-2 performance after starting the contest 0-for-9.
Battle would have a three of his own inside 14 minutes to play in the game, when his crossover gave him an opening that he capitalized on while getting fouled. His four-point play elevated the Orange to a 44-32 advantage.
A steal and dunk to follow by Battle meant that he had scored eight straight points for the team, moving Syracuse to a 46-34 lead.
But the Demon Deacons would not go away.
After beginning the game making 0% of their three-point attempts (0-for-9), Wake Forest went 9-for-11, elevating dramatically from 0% to 81.8% from long range. A four-point play by senior guard Mitchell Wilbekin shrunk the Syracuse lead to six, 61-55, after Syracuse had been up by as many as 14 in the game.
A dunk by Sidibe gave the Orange a 10-point advantage, 65-55, but the Demon Deacons followed with an 8-0 run to bring the Orange lead down to two, 65-63, with a little over four minutes to go.
With Syracuse ahead 68-63 after Battle's 29th and 30th points of the game, Howard would step to the line twice. He would see all four of his late-game free-throw attempts fall outside of the cylinder, while Moore would dunk it home on the other end for Wake Forest.
At 49.8 seconds to play, the Demon Deacons were down by a mere four points, 72-68, after yet another three, going 10-for-12 at the time after beginning the game 0-for-9.
Redshirt-junior guard Keyshawn Woods would make a miraculous shot with 27.4 seconds to play to bring Wake Forest within four, 74-70.
Then Battle would halt any further surge by the Demon Deacons when he went 2-for-2 from the line and followed by stealing the ball away from his adversary after a block by Chukwu, slamming the ball into the cylinder to finish with 34 points and a 78-70 win for the Orange.
As a result, Syracuse elevates to 17-8 overall and is back even in the ACC, now at 6-6.
The win also avenges an earlier head-to-head loss on the road for the Orange versus the Demon Deacons, who are now 9-16 overall and 2-11 in the ACC.
Crawford led all Demon Deacons with 24 points, while Battle led all players with 34.
Syracuse got a mere four points off of their bench from Sidibe, while Wake Forest attained 25 from their bench, but Battle was simply too much and the Orange did enough to roll upward in the standings, holding onto the advantage for the entire second half and for the final 34 minutes and 33 seconds of the game.