MBB : Balanced scoring leads to second-straight comfortable victory
It was Syracuse who relied the fast break to open up a lead vs. St. Francis on Friday. Pennsylvania used it against the Orange to take a lead midway through the first half on Saturday.
Preseason Ivy League Player of the Year Ibrahim Jaaber was single-handedly keeping Penn in the game with his fast-paced ball movement. He made his first five shots from the field, including two 3′s, scoring 12 of Pennsylvania’s first 17 points.
Jaaber had the Quakers to within one point with 7:23 remaining in the first.
But he didn’t take another shot for the rest of the half.
‘We switched off playing more zone,’ SU head coach Jim Boeheim said. ‘We just did a better job than we were. We did a good job in the zone in finding him and not letting him get looks.’
SU outscored Penn 19-7 in the final 7:23 of the first half to take a 13-point cushion into halftime, and it never looked back. The Orange defeated Penn, 78-60, in front of 17,871 at the Carrier Dome.
Syracuse will take on Texas El-Paso on Sunday at 6 p.m. in the final game of the three-day Black Coaches Association Invitational.
For the second night in a row, SU (2-0) received balanced scoring from its starters, thanks to high-percentage inside shots and improved 3-point shooting-especially in the final seven minutes of the first half.
Eric Devendorf and Terrence Roberts led the Orange in scoring with 16 points apiece. Devendorf did it on 3-of-6 shooting beyond the arc, and Roberts went 7-for-8 from the field. Demetris Nichols also added 12 points.
But it was senior Matt Gorman who provided the unlikely scoring spark off the bench when SU needed it most, in the waning minutes of the first half.
Gorman finished with 12 points, a career high, in 19 minutes.
‘I thought he was tremendous tonight,’ Boeheim said. ‘He had a big 3 in the first half that I’m sure broke their backs. He can shoot it. He got good rebounds, a putback and then made a good putback. When it was at 10, this was a game that could have been real close.’
Gorman entered the game at 8:56 of the first half and converted a three-point play with just under six minutes remaining. Then, he nailed a 3-pointer from the right side with 3:11 left to give SU a 31-22 advantage.
‘That’s one of the things I can do, especially when a guy bigger than me is guarding me, I can come out, step out and hit a 3,’ Gorman said. ‘The more I take, the more confidence I can gain out there. I hit that shot all the time in practice so no, there’s no hesitation for me to take that.’
SU struggled to find a defensive scheme to stop the quick Jaaber, but to also sustain the methodical half-court offense the Quakers run. Boeheim switched in-and-out of man-to-man defense and the zone near the end of the first half and all of the second.
‘I thought defensively they’re a difficult team to guard,’ Boeheim said. ‘They caught us backdoor a couple of times.
‘I thought we were real active in the zone. It was a great experience to play a team that moves the ball as well as Penn does against the zone. I thought our zone really held up extremely well.’
It was through the zone defense that the Orange contained Jaaber. Boeheim assigned his defensive specialists, Harris and Wright, to the task of Jaaber.
It paid off. Jaaber finished with 18 points, adding just six in the second half.
The suffocating defense eventually led to high-percentage shots on the offensive side for Syracuse. As a result, SU shot 54 percent from the field.
There was marked improvement from beyond the arc, too. Devendorf was 3-for-6 from 3-point land and Nichols was 2-for-5. The team as a whole was 8-for-18. Penn was 8-of-26 from 3-point range.
‘I think tonight we came out more relaxed and moved the ball around more as a team and got some open shots and we hit them,’ Devendorf said.
Roberts utilized a size advantage in the paint. He tied for the team lead in scoring, but most notably, it came on 7-of-8 shooting from the field. His slam dunk plus the free throw with 5:59 left in the game stretched the SU lead to 67-47.
Penn had been within seven points in the second half, but Devendorf hit a 3-pointer at 12:17 to put the Orange back up by 10.
‘Penn is a very good team,’ Boeheim said. ‘They’ve been an NCAA team the last couple years. They’ll be one again I think this year. This could have been a lot tougher game, but I thought we did a good job against their shooters.’
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