Syracuse falls to No. 14 Buffalo, 71-59, in historic loss

first_img Comments Oshae Brissett stood at the free-throw line with Syracuse trailing by seven in the final three minutes. His first attempt rimmed out, but he had another chance. The second followed. No good.Brissett jumped up high and let out a scream. He knew the game was slipping away. Buffalo pushed tempo after corralling the miss, and CJ Massinburg nailed a 3 from the wing to extend Buffalo’s lead to double digits.It was the dagger in a game Syracuse (7-4) desperately needed to win. But the Bulls, which had struggled with shooting all game, caught fire, and SU missed all its free throws in the final 4:11. It was a perfect recipe for the Orange to choke late in back-to-back games, this time losing against the No. 14 Bulls (11-0), 71-59, on Tuesday night inside the Carrier Dome. For the first time since 1975, Syracuse lost back-to-back nonconference games.“We’re still quite a ways away,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said. “… We’ve got to get better.”The Orange never trailed in the first half. An 11-2 run helped push Syracuse’s lead to nine early. Tyus Battle slammed one home from the right wing to cap off the run. A Buffalo turnover the following possession led to Frank Howard throwing his hands up, while the Carrier Dome crowd rose to their feet.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textFor the first time all season, Howard looked like the dominant floor general people expected. A lower leg injury had set the senior back. He missed both of Syracuse’s games at Madison Square Garden — both losses.When he returned, he was far from 100 percent. Boeheim said Howard’s shot was being held back because of the nagging injury a few weeks ago. On Tuesday, Howard hit his groove, leading the team with 10 first-half points and knocking down a pair of 3s.It was a glimpse of Syracuse’s potential. The offense was finally free-flowing, making 57.1 percent of its shots. Brissett made all four of his attempts. On the other end, the defense stopped a veteran-savvy Buffalo team that averaged 11.4 turnovers per game. By half, the Bulls had coughed up the ball nine times.Entering the break, the Orange led the No. 14 team in the country by four. It wasn’t the 10 points Syracuse held over Old Dominion on Saturday, but it was an attainable win, a much-needed one to bolster SU’s NCAA Tournament resume early in the season.And for the first 10 minutes of the second half, SU was en route. Buffalo didn’t let up, however, remaining in striking distance the entire 30 minutes SU led, in large part to its second-chance opportunities. Buffalo finished with 18 offensive rebounds and 12 second-chance points to SU’s 10 and five, respectively.The Bulls waited for the Orange attack to go cold. And when it eventually did, Buffalo pounced.“About the 30-minute mark,” Boeheim said, “We had four or five opportunities going to the basket, and we just didn’t convert any of them.”Then, with 9:30 remaining, Jeremy Harris nailed a 3 from the top of the key to give UB its first lead all game. The game which Syracuse had controlled for nearly 75 percent of the time, began slipping away.There was nothing Syracuse could do to answer. Brissett and Howard tried attacking the rim. Elijah Hughes only made two of his seven 3-point attempts in the second half. The offense regressed back to its normal, struggling self.“Standing. Not being engaged on defense. Not rebounding,” Howard said of the second-half struggles. “… We just got to do better.”There were chances for the Orange to strike back. Marek Dolezaj missed the front end of his 1-and-1 with SU down two. Buffalo responded with a 3. An offensive rebound resulted in second-chance points for Massinburg to extend the Bulls lead to seven.Boeheim called a timeout, trying whatever he could to lift Syracuse out of its second-straight collapse inside the Carrier Dome. He couldn’t. Brissett drew a foul but missed both free throws. The Bulls drove down the court and Massinburg, who finished the game with 25 points, nailed a 3 to extend the lead to double digits.Howard compared the loss to “big brother playing you outside,” saying that Syracuse got “bullied.”Before the season started, Syracuse entered with high expectations. It was the No. 16 team in the country with all five starters returning, fresh off an NCAA Tournament run that ended in the Sweet 16. The glaring weaknesses were thrown aside. No one considered the 14 losses or that the offense shot 31.8 percent from 3. Still, it wasn’t expected for Syracuse to enter the last two nonconference games with three losses, let alone four.Tuesday night offered a chance to prove its early season doubters wrong. That the Orange could string together two good halves and beat a top-15 opponent. But the Orange fell apart once again.“It’s all mental,” Brissett said. “Everyone’s out of it right now.” Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Published on December 18, 2018 at 10:22 pm Contact Charlie: csdistur@syr.edu | @charliedisturcolast_img read more

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