Syracuse, New York — Mid-December games at home against teams from mid-major conferences used to be cakewalks for coach Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse teams.
But not this year.
The Orange (6-5, 1-1 ACC) made just enough plays in the second half, Oakland (5-7) of the Horizon League failed to take advantage of some golden opportunities and Syracuse outlasted the Golden Grizzlies, 74-62, on Wednesday night.
Elijah Hughes had 23 points and Joe Girard III had 20 points and seven assists to lead Syracuse.
Buddy Boeheim chipped in with 14 points for the Orange, who won for just the second time in six games. Bourama Sidibe had 13 rebounds for Syracuse, three below his career high.
Brad Brechting scored 20 points to lead the Golden Grizzlies, who were playing the final game of a six-game road trip. Xavier Hill-Mais added 16.
“Every game is a going to be a fight for us,” said Boeheim. “There’s not going to be anything easy. We’re going to have games where we’re not going to make shots that I think we can. But we made enough tonight.”
Syracuse’s defense came through down the stretch, too, holding the Golden Grizzlies without a field goal the final 6:37.
“We got a little active at the end,” said Boeheim, who was forced to do double duty as an impromptu cheerleader trying to spark some energy into the sparse and mostly silent Carrier Dome crowd held down by some awful winter weather.
“I had to cheer, trying to get somebody to make noise. It’s sad, sickening really, to see we can’t get some help here. We desperately need it. And it picked up our defense just enough. We got a couple of plays out of it. But we have to have some help. That’s the whole purpose of playing at home and I’m a little too old to try to be a cheerleader here.”
Oakland coach Greg Kampe and Boeheim are two of the longest-active tenured coaches in the country. Both are coaching extremely young teams. Kampe was proud of his team’s effort but bemoaned his team’s youth.
“I’m pleased with how we competed, but not pleased with how, when it was important winning time, we couldn’t make the play,” Kampe said. “We’re two coaches who’ve coached a long time and I think we have some frustration with all the youth. You’re expecting guys to do things and they don’t do them. We had opportunities but we’re just so young and so inexperienced that we couldn’t take advantage of them. They’re the same way, though. They’re young and they’re inexperienced. It was two teams searching and trying to find themselves.”
The Orange missed their first five field goal attempts and didn’t connect until Girard hit a 3-pointer with nearly four minutes gone. The Orange hit 41 percent from the field but just 11 of 34 from beyond the arc.
The Golden Grizzlies hit 43 percent from the field but just 22 percent from three, going 4-for-18. Oakland was strong inside, outscoring the Orange 30-20 in the paint.
The Orange held a 43-35 lead at the half and built an 11-point lead, 55-44, on a slam by Marek Dolezaj with less than 14 minutes to go. The Golden Grizzlies narrowed the margin to 55-51 on a bank shot by Hill-Mais with 11:24 remaining and had a chance to narrow the margin to four with 4:36 to go but Blake Lampman missed the front end of a one-and-one. The Orange slowly increased their margin the rest of the way. A lay-in by Sidibe with 3:34 to go gave the Orange a 70-60 lead.
“We just couldn’t get over the hump,” Brechting said. “It’s very frustrating. We were right there the whole time.”
Despite the narrow escape, Hughes feels better days are ahead for his Orange.
“We’re headed in the right direction,” Hughes said. “We had a lot of open looks today that we just kind of missed. We’re getting better.”
More state men
(At) Western Michigan 84, Aquinas 61: Michael Flowers scored 16 points as Western Michigan easily beat Aquinas.
Brandon Johnson added 15 points for Western Michigan (7-5). Adrian Martin added 10 points.
Western Michigan scored a season-best 48 points in the first half, a season best, against the NAIA Saints.
Gabe Overway had 12 points for the Saints. Myles Patten and Andrew Myers scored 11 points each.
The Broncos are 5-1 at home for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
Central Michigan 65, (at) Oakland 47: Micaela Kelly fired in 23 points while Kyla Bussell had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Central (6-3), which posted its sixth straight win. Breanne Beatty had 11 points and Chloe Guingrich 15 rebounds for Oakland (4-6).
(At) Fairmont State 84, Wayne State 73: Sierra Kotchman scored 32, including seven 3-pointers, to lead Fairmont State (7-5). Sadia Johnson and Tori Perez each had 14 points while Grace George and Nastassja Chambers each had 13 for Wayne State (6-4), which has dropped three in a row.
Eastern Michigan 68, (at) Illinois-Chicago 59: Aaliyah Stanley scored 24 points and Autumn Hudson added 12 for Eastern (4-6), which posted its second straight win. Kiarra Thompson had 19 points to lead Illinois-Chicago (1-10).
Top 25 men
(At) No. 2 Gonzaga 94, North Carolina 81: Corey Kispert scored 26 points, Filip Petrusev added 20 and Gonzaga rolled past North Carolina, handing the Tar Heels their fourth straight loss.
One of the most highly anticipated games ever inside Gonzaga’s gym was a party for most of the night for the home team. The Bulldogs (12-1) won their fourth straight since suffering their only loss of the season against Michigan in the final of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
More importantly, the Zags finished off an unbeaten stretch of three marquee games at Washington, at Arizona and against the Tar Heels.
Garrison Brooks led North Carolina (6-5) with 16 points, but the Tar Heels have dropped four straight for the first time since the 2009-10 season. It’s been a brutal stretch for the Tar Heels with the Zags the fifth opponent ranked in the top 10 in North Carolina’s past six games.
(At) No. 3 Louisville 70, Miami (Ohio) 46: Jordan Nwora scored 20 points and Louisville pulled away with a 17-0 run to beat Miami of Ohio.
Ryan McMahon added 11 points for Louisville (11-1), and Dwayne Sutton tied a career-high with 15 rebounds.
Mekhi Lairy led the Redhawks (5-6) with 10 points.
While the Cardinals never trailed, it was much closer than the final score indicated. Louisville used a 14-2 first-half run to take a 12-point lead, but the Redhawks cut it to 28-25 on Dalonte Brown’s dunk 1:10 into the second half.
Miami trailed just 44-40 with 9:02 left after Josh Brewer’s 3-pointer. The Cardinals used the 17-0 run over the next 5:17 to finally put away the pesky Redhawks.
(At) No. 9 Virginia 56, Stony Brook 44: Kihei Clark scored 14 points and Jay Huff had eight of his 12 during a second-half run for Virginia.
Huff ended a 5-minute scoreless drought for the Cavaliers (9-1) with a putback dunk with 12:11 remaining and added six more points as Virginia turned a 35-30 lead into a 49-38 edge.
Elijah Olaniyi scored 11 for Stony Brook (7-6).
(At) Cincinnati 78, No. 21 Tennessee 66: Trevon Scott scored 15 points and Cincinnati recovered from back-to-back losses by knocking off Tennessee.
The Bearcats (7-4) got the better of a back-and-forth game by getting inside one of the country’s stingiest defenses for close-up baskets. Forty-six of Cincinnati’s points came in the paint.
Keith Williams had a steal and layup during a 9-0 run that put the Bearcats in control 67-57 with 3:27 left. Williams finished with 11 points and five rebounds.
For a second straight game, Tennessee’s Rick Barnes came up short again in his attempt to get career victory No. 700. He’d be only the 22nd coach to reach that mark in Division I.
The Volunteers (7-3) were coming off a 51-47 loss to No. 13 Memphis that highlighted their offensive shortcomings. Tennessee has lost back-to-back games for the first time in two seasons. John Fulkerson had a team-high 14 points. The Volunteers were 3 of 15 from beyond the arc.
(At) No. 20 San Diego State 92, San Diego Christian 48: Yanni Wetzell scored 17 points and No. 20 San Diego State beat NAIA San Diego Christian to remain undefeated.
SDSU (11-0) was playing for the first time in 10 days and for the first time since jumping into The Associated Press Top 25. The Aztecs moved up five spots Monday despite not playing last week.
The Aztecs are off to their best start since opening 20-0 behind Kawhi Leonard in 2010-11, when they reached the Sweet 16 for the first time and finished 34-3. They are one of four remaining undefeated teams.
San Diego Christian’s Marc Combs scored all 14 of his points in the first half.