Syracuse dominates interior, pulls ahead late to beat Cornell men, 80-68

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Cornell made 15 three-pointers over Syracuse’s long 2-3 zone on Wednesday, but a 21-5 run in the second half pushed the Orange ahead by 19 points, eventually winning, 80-68.

“We needed to make a few more [shots],” coach Brian Earl said. “I thought we played pretty hard. [Syracuse is] really hard to guard.”

The Big Red (8-3) fell behind right at the get-go as former Cornell star Jimmy Boeheim opened the scoring just 10 seconds in. Syracuse (7-5) opened on a 17-2 run, capped off with one of three Cole Swider three-pointers.

“When you miss a lot of somewhat open shots, it can compound on the other end,” Earl said. “You just can’t sustain without scoring on the defensive end. We had some open shots, and we just said in the huddle, ‘Let’s keep shooting.'”

But, over the final 12 minutes of the first half, Cornell slowly climbed back. Off five combined treys from Keller Boothby and Guy Ragland Jr., the Big Red cut the deficit to just five at the half after a Nazir Williams triple just before the buzzer. Boothby and Ragland Jr. finished with 20 points and 16 points, respectively, as the duo combined to hit 10 threes on the night.

“He has a nice, quick stroke, which is important against Syracuse because their length can bother guys,” Earl said of Boothby. “Once we got [the ball] into the middle of the zone, the guys did a good job of being tough with the ball and finding him.

“[Ragland Jr.] has the green light,” Earl added. “It’s helpful because no matter what the scouting reports say, you don’t remember or realize the third center coming in and hitting shots like that.”

The Big Red trimmed the deficit to just three out of the break after another Boothby three-pointer. But with 17 minutes remaining, Syracuse began its aforementioned 21-5 run to take a 62-43 lead with 10:20 to play.

“It’s a tough place to play,” Earl said. “When you’ve got 17 guys who have never played in that atmosphere, it takes you a little while. We weren’t just missing open shots, we were also screwing up a little bit on the other side of the ball, giving them open looks that we scouted against.”

Cornell, once again, trimmed the lead to single figures with 2:11 to go, but a pair of Frank Anslem free throws and a Buddy Boeheim pullup jumper sealed the victory for Syracuse.

“We got a little loose with our game plan,” Earl added. “A team like Syracuse is going to kill you when that happens … Some guys who will be valuable to the program got some minutes in a big setting and are hopefully settling in for what the Ivy League is usually – a lot of intense games.”

Buddy led the charge for Syracuse, scoring 22 points off 9-for-16 shooting. Swider, a Villanova transfer, scored 21. Jimmy had 16 points and missed just four times from the field.

“It was weird,” Earl said of facing Jimmy, one of his first recruits as coach at Cornell. “I like to root for those guys, so it’s weird trying to defend [Jimmy] from doing what he does. It’s good to see him out there, though … I’ll look forward to if we play Syracuse again with him not being there.”

“You try to treat it like a regular game, but it definitely was weird,” Jimmy said. “I have a lot of love for that program and everyone on that sideline. It was in no way a revenge game.”

For Cornell, Dean Noll scored 10 points off 3-for-9 perimeter shooting and led the team with seven rebounds, while Kobe Dickson added six points. The team shot 35% from the field and 33% from deep.

The Big Red conclude nonconference play at 8-3 and are scheduled to open Ivy play on Sunday at home against Dartmouth.

“We won some games against similar \-level competition,” Earl said. “Against the bigger teams, the game got away from us.

“Hopefully, back on offense, we can get to the pace that we like to play at and put the Syracuse game behind us.”

INJURY REPORT: Junior guard Jordan Jones missed Wednesday’s game with a minor, undisclosed lower-body injury. His status going forward is to be determined.