Syracuse, N.Y. — The Syracuse defense didn’t rest Monday, led by its big man who came up huge.
Paschal Chukwu, the Orange’s 7-foot-2 junior center, had the best game of his career with 12 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocked shots to lead Syracuse to a 74-50 win over a hobbling Oakland team.
“Because his defense was so good inside, he (Chukwu) just changed the whole game,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “He got some offensive things tonight and we looked for him a little better.”
“I have 40 years in the business and I don’t think I’ve seen arms that long,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said of Chukwu. “We can’t simulate that length in practice and I thought we got the ball in there and then we couldn’t do anything with him. I think that Syracuse has a little better team than people think they have because he is a factor, a big factor.”
Tyus Battle scored 25 points to lead Syracuse (4-0) for the fourth straight game, Frank Howard had a career-high 18, and Oshae Brissett had 11 and nine rebounds while Marek Dolezaj had eight boards.
On this night, though, the story wasn’t about who scored for Syracuse but who didn’t score for Oakland, which came into the game averaging 82 points per game this season. Syracuse held the Grizzlies to 31 percent shooting from the field on 18-of-59 shooting and 6 of 22 from 3-point range.
The defense blocked 15 shots and forced 19 turnovers, and Syracuse capitalized with 23 points off the miscues.
“We’re always one of the top teams in the country in scoring,” Kampe said. “We led the nation two years ago. We’re always one of the top teams in the country in scoring. We scored 50 tonight. So you might have to say their defense was pretty good.”
Chukwu, who transferred from Providence and played just seven games last year because of season-ending eye issues, said he’s finally starting to figure things out, particularly on offense.
“I’m starting to figure out where my strong suit is, which is anything around the basket,” Chukwu said.
Syracuse also shut down the Grizzlies’ top two scorers. Kendrick Nunn, who had been averaging 28 points a game but is battling a sprained ankle, was held to 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting, while Martez Walker, who had been scoring at 24.3 points a game clip, had 14 on 4 of 12 from the field.
Isaiah Brock, one of Oakland’s top defenders and rebounders, is battling a sore leg and was in foul trouble early.
“I think you have to give credit to Syracuse’s defense,” Kampe said. “I think it would be very wrong on my part to say they had bad nights. I think they got frustrated and whenever kids get frustrated that turns into a bad night.”
Syracuse led 51-41 with 9:24 to play and closed on a 23-9 run for the winning margin. Howard had 11 points in the run.
Syracuse went on a 16-2 run to take an 18-9 lead in the first half. The Golden Grizzlies (2-2) scored the next five, but Syracuse, fueled by Battle’s nine straight points, took a 29-18 lead. Battle scored 15 of his 16 first half points in 12 minutes. Syracuse led 39-25 at halftime.
Things should get better for the Golden Grizzlies with the return of Jalen Hayes, who sat out the final game of his four-game suspension handed down by the NBA.
But things don’t get any easier, as Oakland visits Kansas on Friday.
BIG TEN MEN
No. 25 Baylor 70, Wisconsin 65: Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. had 19 points and 10 rebounds, Manu Lecomte poured in 25 points and Baylor (4-0) held on after blowing most of a 19-point lead to beat Wisconsin (2-2) in the semifinals of the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Mo. The Bears established a 38-26 lead by halftime and stretched it to 53-34 midway through the second half, only for the Badgers to whittle it to 57-55 with 2:12 left in the game.
Penn State 85, Pittsburgh 54: Tony Carr scored 16 to lead six Penn State players in double figures and the Nittany Lions (5-0) beat Pittsburgh (1-3) in the second game of the Legends Classic in New York. Mike Watkins and Shep Garner had 13 apiece, while Lamar Stevens, Josh Reaves and Nazeer Bostick each scored 10 for Penn State. Jared Wilson-Frame led the Pitt with 17 points.
Louisiana-Lafayette 80, Iowa 71: At Georgetown, Cayman Islands, Bryce Washington scored 15 and pulled down 10 rebounds and Louisiana-Lafayette (3-1) defeated Iowa (3-1) in the opening game of the inaugural Cayman Islands Classic. The Hawkeyes, who opened their season with three home games, were led by Isaiah Moss, who made all 10 of his free throws, with a career-high 24 points.
(At) Maryland 76, Jackson State 45: Freshman Bruno Fernando scored a career-high 18 points, Kevin Huerter and Jared Nickens both added 14 points and Maryland (5-0) cruised past Jackson State (1-3).
TOP 25 MEN
(At) No. 1 Duke 92, Furman 63: Marvin Bagley III scored 24 and Duke (5-0) beat Furman (2-2) in the on-campus round of the PK80. Trevon Duval had a season-best 18 points, Wendell Carter Jr. added 14 and a fourth freshman — Alex O’Connell — scored 10 for the Blue Devils.
No. 6 Wichita State 92, California 82: Shaquille Morris scored 25 points, Landry Shamet added 23 and Wichita State (3-0) got the Maui Invitational off to a wild start by rallying from an 18-point deficit to beat California (2-2). Cal used its pressure to harass the Shockers into mistakes and missed shots, building the lead to nine by halftime.
(At) No. 8 Kentucky 70, Troy 62: Kevin Knox scored 17 and Kentucky (4-1) built a big lead in the second half before having to withstand a late rally by Troy (2-3). Knox came up with the last of Kentucky’s season-high 53 rebounds.
No. 9 North Carolina 96, (at) Stanford 72: Joel Berry II scored 29, Kenny Williams posted career highs with 20 points and six 3-pointers, and North Carolina (3-0) beat Stanford (3-2) in a matchup of Roy Williams against his former player-turned coach, Jerod Haase.
No. 12 Cincinnati 73, Buffalo 68: Gary Clark scored 24 and grabbed 14 rebounds and Cincinnati (4-0) held off Buffalo (2-1) to close the opening round of the Cayman Islands Classic. Kyle Washington added 14 points and Jarron Cumberland 13 for the Bearcats, who had breezed in their previous games.
No. 13 Notre Dame 83, Chaminade 56: Matt Farrell scored 27 and Bonzie Colson added 23, helping Notre Dame (4-0) open the Maui Invitational with a rout over Division II Chaminade (2-1).
(At) No. 15 Xavier 96, Hampton 60: Trevon Bluiett followed his fabulous game against Wisconsin with a 21-point performance, and Xavier (4-0) turned to its reserves while pulling away to a victory over Hampton (1-4).,
No. 16 Texas A&M 72, Oklahoma State 55: Robert Williams 11 points, 11 rebounds and a handful of alley-oop dunks to help Texas A&M (3-0) beat Oklahoma State (3-1) in the first game of the Legends Classic in New York.
Creighton 100, No. 23 UCLA 89: Marcus Foster scored 23, Mitch Ballock added 22 in front of his boyhood fans and Creighton (4-0) beat UCLA (3-1) in the semifinals of the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Mo.
(At) No. 23 West Virginia 91, Long Beach State: Lamont West was a point shy of a career high with 22 and West Virginia (3-1) overcame a slow start to beat Long Beach State (2-2).