“They could have folded, but they didn’t”

“They could have folded, but they didn’t”

Syracuse, N.Y. – Boos rang out from the crowd as Syracuse players headed to their bench, trailing Colgate by 22 points early in the second half of Tuesday’s game at the JMA Wireless Dome.

Not only did Colgate beat Syracuse for the third straight season, but the Raiders embarrassed the Orange on their home field. The score was 52-30 and Syracuse had yet to score in the second half when Adrian Autry, Syracuse’s first-year head coach, called a timeout with 17:02 remaining.

“Definitely. Definitely,” SU forward Maliq Brown said upon hearing the crowd’s displeasure. “We didn’t want to hear it. We had to turn the noise off and reverse it.

A turnaround seemed implausible. The Colgate leads insurmountable. Colgate had beaten Syracuse in each of the previous two years and David seemed headed for a third straight victory against Goliath.

“They got us,” SU point guard Judah Mintz said.

Syracuse staged an improbable comeback, rallying from a 24-point deficit for a 79-75 victory over Colgate.

“I’m so proud of these guys,” Autry said. “They could have folded, but they didn’t. They did not do it.

The 24-point rally is the largest deficit Syracuse has overcome since 1998. Syracuse has staged rallies from 20-point deficits in wins over Notre Dame in 2021 and Rutgers in 2005. According to the ACC office, the returner is tied for second in terms of an ACC team. Florida State beat Miami last season after trailing by 25 minutes last season.

Syracuse’s memorable comeback against Virginia in the 2016 NCAA Tournament erased a 16-point margin.

How Syracuse managed to come back was unlikely given the margin the Orange had to overcome.

The Orange used a furious, relentless full-court press to force an experienced Colgate team into 14 turnovers in the second half. Syracuse converted those turnovers into 16 points in the second half.

Colgate had scored 46 points in the first half, but Syracuse’s press revved up the Raiders’ offense, pushing Colgate to 1-of-9 3-point shooting in the second half.

“The problem was we didn’t take care of the ball,” Colgate coach Matt Langel said. “Our experience is in our frontcourt, but you need an experienced backcourt when you’re trying to break pressure. We are a work in progress in many ways. There are many ways to reduce the pressure, but we didn’t do it. We had a few chances to take the lead and make some plays, but we didn’t.

Autry finally saw his team play with the intensity he expected.

“I think they’ve learned what we’re talking about for a while now,” Autry said. “They put together a cohesive half of defense. They understand what it takes to focus now and finish their games. In previous games we played six minutes here, five minutes there. Tonight I think they grew up a little and learned what it takes to put up 20 minutes of defense.

During the timeout he called at the start of the second half, Autry asked his team to forget the score (52-30, in fact) and the time (17:02 to be exact). He reminded the players what they had been doing in practice: playing 4-minute matches. Break the game into manageable segments.

Autry’s message recorded with Orange players.

“We play 4-minute games all the time,” Mintz said.

“Don’t worry about the score,” Autry told his team. “Just keep playing.” I said 4 minute games. Let’s move on to the 4 minutes (timeout) and see where we are.

Syracuse coach Adrian Autry leads his team during the second half of Syracuse’s victory over Colgate at the JMA Wireless Dome. Dennis Nett |dnett@syracuse.com

Four minutes later, Syracuse had cut Colgate’s lead to 57-44. Sophomore forward Chris Bell had scored eight points in a 10-3 run. Bell would finish with a career-high 25 points.

As the clock ticked below 8 minutes, Mintz made a reverse layup, cutting the margin to 62-54. Syracuse was within 10.

The crowd, including the fans who had been booing a few minutes earlier, were now on their feet and roaring.

“We got to a manageable number with about 8 minutes left and then they just picked up their energy,” Autry said. “Our crowd was phenomenal today. They energized us. They gave us a big boost.

Before the game reached the 4-minute mark, Colgate had to take a timeout after Mintz stole a pass and rushed for a layup, cutting the Raiders’ lead to 66-61.

The full-court press was working. The pace was frantic.

“We didn’t have time to play half-court with them,” Mintz said. “Picking up the pace and using our speed and athleticism is what allowed us to get back into the game. »

Bell tied the score at 70, burying his sixth 3-pointer of the game with 1:39 left. JJ Starling made two free throws with 1:07 left for a 72-70 lead; SU’s first lead since 3-0 in the opening minute of the game.

Brown then came up with Syracuse’s 10th steal of the night and flew down the court for the slam and a 4-point lead. Mintz sealed the game at the foul line with three free throws in the final 12 seconds. The dazzling sophomore scored 23 points, along with eight assists and three steals.

Syracuse had held Colgate to 29 points in the second half. Colgate, which had beaten Syracuse in each of the previous two seasons with its prolific 3-point shooting, made just one 3-pointer in the second half.

“I thought they represented what we were talking about,” Autry said. “The relentlessness. Hardness. Squeak. Play together. I was proud of them.

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