Syracuse hung tough with one of the nation’s best teams for about 33 minutes, but #7 Tennessee put them away late to secure a 73-56 victory in the first round of the Allstate Maui Invitational. The Orange (3-1) simply struggled to generate consistent offense against the Volunteers (4-0), who own one of the top defenses in the country and made sure to pack it for the long trip.
SU shot 35.0 percent in the contest, including missing nine straight attempts to bridge the two halves. Tennessee made 40.0 percent of their shots in the game, but knocked down half of their attempts in the second half to keep Syracuse at bay.
The Orange also could not make up for that poor shooting with volume, getting beaten on the boards by a 48-33 margin, including giving the Vols 13 offensive rebounds. SU gave the ball away 15 times, as well, and Tennessee turned those mistakes into 18 points.
Syracuse used a 12-4 run early in first half for 13-9 lead, started by seven straight points and closed with the other five. The Orange pushed the advantage out to 19-11 midway through the half when they answered a Volunteer foul shot with a triple on two occasions.
Tennessee woke from their slumber and outscored SU over the back half of the opening session, 19-6. Their strong play started with seven straight points and the Vols pushed in front by virtue of a 9-1 run to close the half with a 30-25 lead. The Tennessee defense strangled the Syracuse offense in that time, allowing them to shoot just 2-of-14 from the floor while also forcing a half dozen turnovers.
The Volunteers pushed their lead to 11 points in the first 75 seconds of the second half, which eventually proved to be too much for the Orange to overcome. SU did get off the mat right away, running off eight straight points, six from Chris Bell, almost immediately to draw within 38-35.
That was the first of four times Syracuse pulled within a single possession, but the last came with 8:35 to play. Tennessee responded to that threat with a 9-3 run to get some breathing room at 57-48 with just over six minutes to play. The Orange got within five less than three minutes later, but the Volunteers iced them by scoring the game’s final dozen points.
Bell led SU with 16 points while Judah Mintz had 13 of his 15 after halftime. J.J. Starling added nine points and Benny Williams chipped in with eight, all in the first half. Naheem McLeod blocked four shots in the game.
Dalton Knecht, who came into the game averaging 19.7 points per game for the Volunteers, had 15 in the first half and finished with 17 while missing nearly eight minutes after halftime with a leg cramp. Josiah-Jordan James added 15 points and 12 rebounds while Jonas Aidoo posted 14 and 11 as the duo had nearly identical double-doubles.
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