After a dominant second half against Cornell, the Syracuse Orange look to build momentum off of their season-opening win when they face off against the Iona Gaels in the Carrier Dome, Tuesday night at 7. Syracuse was anchored by a strong defense in the opener, and star sophomore Tyus Battle was able to pour in 18 points to lead an inexperienced Orange team over overmatched Cornell.
Iona started the season with a tight loss to Albany, but comes off of a season where they won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference for the second straight season, making the NCAA tournament before losing in the first round. Graduate-transfer big man T.K. Edogi played well for the Gaels in their opening loss with a near double-double, tallying 17 points and 9 rebounds.
Syracuse was unable to reach the tournament last year, falling just short with an 18-14 record under legendary coach Jim Boeheim. Coach Boeheim, in his 42nd season at Syracuse, is known for his imposing 2-3 zone on defense that has led the Orange to 904 (NCAA recognized) wins during his tenure, including a national championship in 2003.
Expectations for the Orange remain tempered even after a convincing win over Cornell, due to the mass exodus of talent the Orange experienced after a season that ended without a NCAA tournament berth, losing standouts including John Gillon, Tyler Lydon, Andrew White, and Taurean Thompson. However, the Orange saw emerging star Tyus Battle decide to return for his sophomore season, and are relying on breakout seasons from promising, albeit inexperienced, players including freshman Oshae Brissett and junior Frank Howard.
The Orange come into this in-state matchup with a perfect-all time record against the Gaels, leading the series 4-0 after a tight win in their most recent matchup, an 83-77 victory during the 2010 season. Boeheim’s team hopes to maintain the impressive rebounding and defense they showcased in the opener, with 54 rebounds compared to Iona’s mere 27 boards against Albany.
The up-tempo Gaels figure to be a tough matchup for Syracuse’s zone, as Iona connected on almost 40% of their long-distance shots last season, which ranked 16th in the nation. Iona coach Tim Cluess has compiled an impressive 162 wins since his arrival at the program in 2010. The Orange will also hope to contain dynamic Iona senior Deyshonee Much, who is one of the top returning scorers from last year’s Gaels team.