The Syracuse Orange looked more like a top 10 team in this most recent contest, winning by more than 30 over the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils, 96-62.
But, the end result does not portray the match it was in the first half. The Blue Devils were even with the Orange four times and gained the lead on five separate occasions.
Their ability to stay with Syracuse early on came primarily from guard Kyle Vinales, who made four of eight attempts from long range, finishing the first half as Central Connecticut State’s leading scorer and the top scorer overall.
However, a three by Syracuse guard Michael Carter-Williams, with just under seven minutes to play in the opening half gave the Orange the advantage for good, heading into the break with a 47-26 performance.
At halftime, Carter-Williams led Syracuse with 11 points and was the only member of the team in double-digits. He and forward C.J. Fair were atop all Orange in field-goal percentage, both making four of eight. Fair also led in total rebounds at the half with eight.
All nine of those that took the court for Syracuse in the opening half got on the board, each attaining points in the first 20 minutes.
It was only fitting that Carter-Williams was the first to score coming out of the break, en route to a career single-game high , finishing with 18 points (6-for-10) to lead the Orange.
In total, five Syracuse players scored in double-digits, with fellow guard Brandon Triche, Fair, forward James Southerland, and center DaJuan Coleman joining Carter-Williams.
Forward Matt Hunter of the Blue Devils led the team with 18 points after Vinales went cold in the second half. Four Central Connecticut State players were in double-digits, with fellow forward Terrell Allen, guard Adonis Burbage, and Vinales elevating above 10 points apiece with Hunter.
After making seven of their 12 three-point tries in the first half, the Orange would make three more to end the game above 40% from deep, shooting 10-for-22, with Carter-Williams making three of his four attempts.
Six different Syracuse players connected from long range.
The Blue Devils relied heavily on their attempts from deep, taking 35, but only making nine of them to finish under 26%.
Overall, Syracuse made close to or above 50% of their field-goal tries throughout the game, while Central Connecticut State remained under 40%, at just below 32%.
Not only scoring on his own, but helping others as has been his MO, Carter-Williams achieved six more assists in the latter half to bring him to 13 assists for the game, the same amount the Blue Devils recorded as a team. He now has recorded double-digits in assists in eight of Syracuse’s 13 contests. The sophomore guard’s 13 assists versus Central Connecticut State were more than he had attained in the last two games combined; Carter-Williams had 12 in the previous two matches, six versus Temple Owls followed by six against the Alcorn State Braves.
On the boards, the Orange elevated themselves back to their output from the beginning of the season, grabbing more than 50 rebounds against the Blue Devils, with 57 to the Blue Devils’ 32. Syracuse attained 36 defensive rebounds to Central Connecticut State’s 21 and also won in offensive rebounds, 21 to 11.
The Orange also led in blocks, eight to six, but had less steals, seven to the Blue Devils’ nine.
Syracuse also made one more turnover than Central Connecticut State, 16 to 15.
Both teams stayed away from foul trouble, only allowing 27 free throws combined. The Orange went 8-for-13, while the Blue Devils connected on 11 of their 14 attempts from the line.
The win for the Orange gives Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim 902 career wins, tying him with Bobby Knight for second-most victories as a coach in NCAA Division I men’s basketball history.
Boeheim had risen to 900 wins after the Orange defeated the Titans of the University of Detroit Mercy earlier in December.
The next victory for Syracuse would give Boeheim 903, putting him in sole possession of second-place all-time among men’s collegiate basketball coaches.
Leading all men’s coaches is Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils.
Boeheim is the only men’s coach to ever rise to the 900 level with one team.
Syracuse will face the Rutgers Scarlet Knights next to open their competition in the final season of the Big East Conference for the Orange.