Syracuse defeats stubborn Lehigh 57-47
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Syracuse's 57-47 victory over Lehigh was a win-win for both the Orange and the Mountain Hawks.
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim called it ''a learning experience'' and Lehigh head coach Brett Reed was happy with how his team fought back.
The Orange built a 32-12 lead at the half - thanks to a 24-3 run - but had to hit some big-times 3s to hold off a resilient Lehigh club in the season opener for both schools .
Boeheim said he was a ''little disappointed'' that Lehigh cut a 20-point deficit to 6 with 12:30 to go in the game, calling out his team for bad turnovers, but he was generally pleased with the outcome.
''It doesn't look like a good win but it was a good win,'' said Boeheim, now in his 40th season leading the Orange. ''Lehigh's a good team. They're going to beat a lot of people.''
Lehigh's Reed wasn't pleased with his team's play to end the first half, but he was happy with how his team fought back.
''I think we were just nervous,'' Reed said. ''It was the first game of the year. We were playing a different defense, one that you really can't simulate. They had us on our heels and we compounded things by turning the ball over. We caved.
''As a coach there are a lot of positive things we can take away from this game. Winning the second half against an excellent opponent is something we can build from.''
Michael Gbinije scored 16, Malachi Richardson had 14 points and Trevor Cooney chipped in with 13.
The Orange committed 17 turnovers and shot just 34 percent for the game, including 11 of 34 from beyond the arc.
''Thirty-four is a lot,'' Cooney said. He finished 3 of 9 from 3-point range while his backcourt partner, Gbinije, was only 2 of 9.
''We didn't come out saying we were going to shoot a lot of 3s,'' Cooney added. ''Many of them were good looks ... but we could probably take less.''
Reigning Patriot League Player of the Year Tim Kempton led the Mountain Hawks with 18 points. Austin Price had 12. The loss marked the seventh straight season-opening loss for Lehigh, which entered the season as the Patriot League favorites.
Tyler Lydon led Syracuse with 11 rebounds.
Lehigh outscored Syracuse 26-10 in the paint and scored 21 points off turnovers.
Lehigh started the second half with 12 straight points and stretched it to an 18-4 run to close the gap to 36-30 with 12:30 to go.
Kaleb Joseph hit a 3 to break the streak and Cooney followed with another 3 to get the Orange back up by 12.
During the first half, Lehigh went on a scoring drought of nearly 10 minutes and shot just 8.7 percent on 2 of 23 from the field. Kempton, Lehigh's returning leading scorer, had just 4 points in the half.
Meanwhile, the Orange registered eight steals and launched 20 3s in the first half. Syracuse Gbinije and Richardson had with 9 and 8 first-half points, respectively.
Syracuse: The Orange, with Jim Boeheim entering his 40th season as head coach, entered the year with 44 winning seasons in a row, the longest active streak in Division I. The Orange averaged 16.6 3-point shots last season but expect to feature the trey in their arsenal this season.
Lehigh: The Mountain Hawks returned four starters including last year's Rookie of the Year, Kahron Ross. In November, the Mountain Hawks face three power conference teams - Syracuse, Virginia and Purdue. Lehigh's last game against an ACC team came Nov. 12, 2013, at Pittsburgh.
Syracuse plays St. Bonaventure Tuesday night in the Carrier Dome.
Lehigh visits Canisius on Monday.
IT'S ABOUT TIME
Syracuse and Lehigh last met during the 1931-32 season when the Orange won 34-17.