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Syracuse men’s basketball concludes road trip with a showdown at Wake Forest Saturday

Syracuse guard Judah Mintz (3, orange) accelerates into the lane in SU's loss to BC.
Syracuse guard Judah Mintz (3, orange) accelerates into the lane in SU's loss to BC.

Syracuse men’s basketball (14-7, 5-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) is on the road again this weekend against Wake Forest (13-7, 5-4 ACC).

The Orange dropped to .500 in conference play after an 80-75 road loss to Boston College on Tuesday. The Eagles shot 60% from the field in SU’s first loss to BC in six years.

Boston College’s Claudell Harris Jr. had a game-high 19 off the bench off of 5-9 shooting from beyond the arc.

“I just thought today was the first time in a while that we just didn’t execute the game plan on the one guy that we knew could make shots,” said head coach Adrian Autry following the loss.

It wasn’t just Harris Jr. that dominated the ‘Cuse offensively. While Autry’s squad forced seven turnovers out of BC leading scorer Quinten Post, holding the senior to just nine points. However, the scoring was distributed to other Eagles. Guard Jaeden Zackery and forward Devin McGlockton both contributed 15 on 6-10 shooting from the field. Poor perimeter defense also reared its head in Chestnut Hill, as BC shot 50% from beyond the arc.

Syracuse guard JJ Starling (2, Orange) drives to the basket in SU's loss to BC.
Syracuse guard JJ Starling (2, Orange) drives to the basket in SU's loss to BC.

But it wasn’t all negative for the Orange. Guards Judah Mintz and JJ Starling both put up 18. Forward Maliq Brown went for 15 points and seven rebounds. Starling is in the middle of the best stretch of his season. The Notre Dame transfer averages just over 18 points over the past five games, including a career-high 26 a week ago against NC State.

After Tuesday’s loss, Autry said “I think JJ got two really good looks… we were really that close to changing the game, but that happens.”

On the other side of things, the Demon Deacons are also coming off of a tough loss. Steve Forbes’ squad was on the wrong side of a comeback on Wednesday against Pitt. Leading scorer Hunter Sallis had 22, but the team as a whole struggled to get shots to fall, going just 6-22 from deep. The loss in Pittsburgh is the second in a row for Wake Forest - on Monday, it was blown out against third-ranked North Carolina 85-64.

On Saturday, Syracuse has a chance to lose two straight to Wake for the first time in program history. The last matchup - a 77-74 loss for SU in last year’s ACC Tournament - was overshadowed by longtime head coach Jim Boeheim’s retirement a few hours later. However, the Orange have to grapple with a much different Demon Deacons team from that contest. Only two of the five starters in that game returned to Winston-Salem for this season.

Besides Sallis, Wake has three primary scorers. Guards Kevin Miller and Cameron Hildreth along with Forward Andrew Carr average over 14 points per game. Hildreth and Carr present shooting threats - both shoot over 38% from the perimeter.

“It really came down to defense, we scored, they go back down and hit a three.” Adrian Autry said about SU’s effort to stop BC’s three-point barrage on Tuesday.

The loss to Boston College knocked the ‘Cuse out of ESPN’s NCAA Tournament “bubble” for the time being. With a lack of Quad 1 wins and only 10 games left on the schedule, nearly every matchup can be seen as a must-win for the Orange. Wake currently sits at 49th in the NET rankings, meaning the road contest is an opportunity for a Q1 victory.

Syracuse takes on Wake Forest Saturday night. You can catch all the action on 88.3 FM at 7:45 p.m. McClurg Remodeling Countdown to Tipoff begins at 7:15 p.m.