By BILLY HEYEN
Syracuse (4-1) flirted with the century mark as it beat Bucknell (2-4), 97-46, on Saturday afternoon in the Carrier Dome. The Orange were led by Elijah Hughes and Buddy Boeheim, and head on a high note into a stretch of five-straight games against high-major opposition.
Here are some takeaways from SU’s win over the Bison.
Doing It All
Hughes has already proven himself to be a more well-rounded player in his second season on the court for Syracuse, adding a passing ability that he didn’t show much of last year. Early on Saturday, Hughes just embraced the shooting that everyone already knew he could do. He knocked down four first-half 3s, including the first bucket of the game, a swished triple from the right corner.
“We made some shots and came out with some intensity early,” Hughes said postgame on ACC Network.
He continued to make an impact all over the floor, too. There was a dish to Bourama Sidibe along the baseline for a dunk. He blocked a Bucknell corner 3-point attempt. He drew a charge. Hughes added a tap ahead to himself on a fastbreak before kicking to Joe Girard III for a 3, then lobbed an alley-oop to Jesse Edwards to close out the first half in style.
On consecutive second half possessions, Hughes cut backdoor for a righty tomahawk slam and then added a 3-pointer from the top of the arc. After that, he got to spend the rest of the game on the bench, maybe the most time he’ll spend out of the game all season.
Hughes finished with 21 points, six rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal, and he made 5-of-10 shots from beyond the arc.
Quest For 100
Syracuse hadn’t reached the century mark in scoring since doing it twice in the 2016-17 season. But when the Orange entered halftime with 51 points, it meant that total was within reach.
A lot of the firepower came from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes, as Hughes, Buddy Boeheim and Girard all hit multiple 3-pointers. But that trio also all made at least one pull-up jumper near the foul line, too. Add in Bourama Sidibe’s improved finishing near the basket and SU’s offense was too much for the Bison to handle in the first half.
Buddy Boeheim nailed four three 3-pointers from the right wing in the second half’s first six minutes to keep the chase for 100 alive. Hughes and Howard Washington added 3s shortly after to get Syracuse to 81 points with more than 10 minutes to play.
The Orange’s scoring pace slowed after dipping deeper into its bench late in Friday’s game, and so Syracuse didn’t quite reach triple digits. It was still the most points SU has scored since its 2017 overtime win at North Carolina State.
Against Cornell on Wednesday, Syracuse didn’t block a shot. The Orange only had two steals. But in just the first half against Bucknell, SU had seven blocks and seven steals.
Two of the steals came from Girard, who displayed his anticipation at the top of the zone, first by deflecting a pass at the top and second by tracking to the back half to cut off a cross court pass. The defensive activity showed up on the offensive end for Syracuse, which had 19 points off 13 forced turnovers in the first half.
“Once we get stops going on defense, our offense becomes easier,” Hughes said postgame on ACC Network. “… Transition’s the best part of basketball.”
The Orange’s 2-3 zone continued to get hands on the ball and contest shots throughout the second half as the Bison offense, which entered as the 51st-best 3-point shooting team in the country, couldn’t ever get itself going. Bucknell finished the game making just 26.3 percent of its shots, and the Orange finished with 13 blocks.
Buddy Boeheim did more than hit four 3-pointers in a six-minute stretch in the second half, even though that’ll be the stretch everyone remembers. He stole a pass tracking to the back end of the 2-3 zone. He made two foul-line pull-up jumpers, too.
But it was the scorching hot shooting that let Buddy exit the game with about 13 minutes remaining to plenty of applause. Four times, Buddy had enough space to fire on the right wing after halftime, and four times, he drained his shot. It was only an extra deep attempt from the top of the arc that didn’t fall through as a heat check.
Buddy finished with 22 points and six 3-pointers, both career-highs.
Emptying The Bench
Syracuse’s blowout win allowed a number of its bench players to get extended run. Backup center Jesse Edwards, a freshman from the Netherlands, dunked an alley-oop from Hughes in the first half. He finished another couple buckets inside in the second half.
In addition, Howard Washington nailed a right wing 3-pointer, the first points he’s scored since suffering a stroke in the fall of 2018. The whole Syracuse bench rose to their feet as Washington’s shot fell through.
“Good learning experience for (the bench),” Boeheim said postgame.
Washington dished out two impressive assists on consecutive possessions inside of three minutes remaining. First, he found a cutting Goodine for a backdoor layup, and then, he pushed the ball up the wing to Guerrier who drove and slammed it home.