SYRACUSE — Elijah Hughes asserted his control from the opening jump and Buddy Boeheim delivered a career performance to lead the Syracuse University men’s basketball team to its most lopsided victory in seven years.
Hughes scored 16 of his 21 points within the first 11 minutes and dominated on both ends throughout, helping the Orange cruise to a 97-46 victory over Bucknell as part of the NIT Season Tipoff on Saturday afternoon in front of 17,181 fans at the Carrier Dome.
Buddy Boeheim connected on six 3-point field goals en route to a team-high 22 points, each of which represents a career best, to complement an active and energetic defense for the Orange (4-1 overall).
SU won its fourth in a row entering a stretch of five straight games against opponents from a power-five conference, beginning at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Oklahoma State at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the next stage of the tournament.
“I think we just played with a sense of urgency from the start,” Buddy Boeheim said. “We really locked in on defense and it didn’t feel like a noon game, it felt like we were locked in from the start and you love to have that where guys are making shots early. We really just made plays for each other and executed the game plan, and our defense was really good. It started there.”
The Orange’s vaunted 2-3 zone defense limited the Bison to 26 percent shooting, forced 23 turnovers, and finished with season highs of 14 steals and 13 blocks to fuel the blowout win.
SU made 14 of 29 attempts from deep — finishing one shy of the program record — and registered its highest point total since scoring 99 against Boston College on Dec. 10, 2016. The margin of victory marks SU’s largest since a 108-56 victory over Monmouth on Dec. 8, 2012.
“We’re not that good and they’re not that bad,” said SU coach Jim Boeheim, in the midst of his 44th season at the helm. “It was just one of those games where everything went right for us and really nothing went right for them.”
Hughes made 7 of 12 shots overall and finished 5-for-10 from deep, adding six rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal in just 26 minutes. He scored eight of SU’s first 10 points to ignite a fast start, and his 3-pointer with 9:51 left in the first half extended SU’s advantage to 31-12 while increasing his point total to 16. Hughes outscored Bucknell (2-4) by himself through the first 11 minutes.
“I’m usually pretty aggressive coming out of the gate but today I just kind of made my first three or four, and that was pretty much that,” Hughes said.
Hughes also displayed his ability as a facilitator by bringing the ball up the floor for much of the first half, and energized SU with his defensive effort. During the hot start, Hughes blocked a potential dunk at the rim and sent away a corner 3-pointer, also stepping in to draw a charge.
The Beacon native and former East Carolina transfer leads the Orange with season averages of 17.2 points and five assists per game.
“I’m just trying to be a complete basketball player,” Hughes said. “I’m trying to be on the boards a little bit more, try to be a playmaker, get in the lane and do some things, just trying to be a playmaker.”
Buddy Boeheim carried the strong shooting into the second half, connecting on his first four shot attempts from behind the arc after halftime. His last 3-pointer extended SU’s advantage to 71-31 with 14:38 left, and he left to a strong ovation about a minute later. The sophomore guard also matched a career high with four assists.
“I started off and missed my first two shots and kept my head up and kept going,” he said. “That’s something I’ve been really working on is just playing through it when I’m shooting poorly, working on the defensive end, making plays and trying to get assists for my teammates, and I kind of just got everything going and kept getting good looks, and then I was able to knock them down.”
Freshman point guard Joe Girard III added 12 points and six assists, while center Bourama Sidibe provided nine points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots. Junior forward Marek Dolezaj hauled in seven boards and blocked three shots to help Sidibe set the tone inside on defense.
Freshman center Jesse Edwards made each of his five shots in the paint to contribute 10 points, five rebounds, and two blocks in 13 minutes off the bench. Freshman Quincy Guerrier played 23 minutes and contributed eight points, eight rebounds, and two blocks.