Syracuse, N.Y. — Tyus Battle’s 16 second-half points — including 10 straight for Syracuse — created some separation from Eastern Michigan but it was Paschal Chukwu’s unexpected success from the foul line that kept the Orange in the game.
Battle finished with 22 points and Chukwu added a career-high 15 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks to lead Syracuse to a 62-47 win over Eastern Michigan on Wednesday night.
Chukwu, a 48-percent shooter from the foul line entering the game, hit 9-of-11 free throws, including 5-of-6 in the first half when Syracuse (11-2) had a hard time mustering any kind of offense. The Orange had just five field goals on 21 attempts in the first 20 minutes with half of its 24 points coming at the line. The teams were tied at 24 at the break.
“That’s the goal, if they’re going to foul me, to make them pay,” Chukwu said of his nine made foul shots, also a career high. “I was able to accomplish that today. As my foul shooting gets better, I’ll make them pay more.”
Syracuse was called for just seven personal fouls to Eastern Michigan’s 19 and took 20 more foul shots than the Eagles — hitting 20-for-26 to the Eagles’ 4-for-6.
“When you come into a venue like this you have to overcome an ACC team coached by a Hall of Fame coach (Jim Boeheim),” Eastern Michigan coach Rob Murphy said. “But, then, when it’s consistent calls every time up the floor and they’re against you — 19 fouls to seven — you just can’t win that way. I’m not one to talk about officiating or fouls being called, but tonight it was evident. We just couldn’t overcome it.”
Battle had just six points on 1-for-6 shooting, including 0-for-5 from 3-point range, in the first half, but heated up in the second, hitting 6 of 9 field-goal attempts, including 3 of 4 3-pointers, to lead the Orange. Frank Howard and Oshae Brissett had 11 points each, and Brissett snagged 12 rebounds.
Elijah Minnie led Eastern Michigan (8-4) with 13 points. James Thompson IV added 12.
The game was tied at 26-all when Howard and Battle went to work. After Chukwu hit two free throws, Howard scored the next five on a layup and 3-pointer and Battle scored the next 10 for the Orange, hitting back-to-back 3s, a layup and a jumper to give Syracuse a 43-36 lead with 11:30 to go. Eastern Michigan scored the next five but Syracuse closed the game on a 19-6 run, including six more from Battle. The Orange shot 52 percent from the field after intermission.
“I knew one was going to fall eventually,” said Battle, who shot just 3-for-18 in Syracuse’s loss to St. Bonaventure last Friday. “You can’t miss that many shots, one has to go in. I wasn’t worried. You can’t stop shooting or that means you’ve lost confidence and that’s never good.”
The story of the game, though, was Chukwu — on both ends of the court.
“He’s (7 feet 2 inches). He blocks shots. He alters shots,” Murphy said. “When you’re (7-2), guys on offense always think about you. Even if you’re not around they wonder where you are. I also saw from him he was able to step to the line and make free throws. He shoots something like 48 percent but he stepped up and made some big free throws. He was great defensively, he made his free throws. He had a huge impact on the game.”
Top 25 men
No. 1 Villanova 103, (at) DePaul 85: Mikal Bridges scored 20 points, Phil Booth added 17 points and six assists, and Villanova made it look easy in the Big East opener for both teams.
The Wildcats (13-0, 1-0) closed in on last year’s program-record 14-0 start and gave coach Jay Wright his 399th victory in 17 seasons at Villanova.
Chicago-area product Jalen Brunson had 16 points and five assists. Eric Paschall scored 16, and Villanova hit the 100-point mark for the third time this season.
Max Strus had 20 points, nine rebounds and six assists for DePaul (7-6, 0-1). Marin Maric added 17 points and 10 rebounds, but the Blue Demons dropped their 13th straight against ranked opponents. They fell to 3-21 against No. 1 teams.
No. 6 Xavier 91, (at) Marquette 87: Trevon Blueitt had 23 points and J.P. Macura scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half as Xavier survived a road test in its Big East opener.
Tyrique Jones added 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting before fouling out for Xavier (13-1, 1-0), which won its eighth straight game.
Andrew Rowsey led the Golden Eagles (9-4, 0-1) with 31 points but missed a 3-pointer while open from a couple feet from behind the arc with 1:16 left with his team trailing 85-82.
The Big East leader in foul shooting (79.8 percent), Xavier sealed the road victory by going 6 of 6 from the line over the final 28 seconds.