The last time Rutgers defeated Syracuse was back in 2003 when Carmelo Anthony was a freshman for the Orange. Jerome Coleman led the way with 31 points during a 68-65 victory for the Scarlet Knights.
On Tuesday night, the Scarlet Knights took the floor without two huge factors — Geo Baker and the raucous crowd at the RAC. Rutgers was prepared to face their biggest test out of conference before beginning a daunting schedule within the Big Ten.
No. 21 Rutgers had won their first three games of the season leading up to this matchup with Syracuse in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Rutgers survived the test and moved to 4-0 with a 79-69 win over Syracuse behind 26 points from Ron Harper Jr.
The Scarlet Knights built up a double-digit lead in the first half against the Syracuse zone. Harper Jr. caught fire early with 15 points in the first 20 minutes.
Syracuse was without Buddy Boeheim (contact tracing) and center Bourama Sidibe (torn meniscus) on Tuesday night. With the 6’10 Sidibe sidelined, the Scarlet Knights decided to go big in the first half. Myles Johnson and Cliff Omoruyi were on the floor together for the first time this season. It did not last long as Omoruyi quickly picked up two fouls and was forced to the bench. This is something that Steve Pikiell has mentioned in the past and we could see more of it moving forward.
The absence of Sidibe made a clear impact as Rutgers outrebounded the Orange, 42-26.
Syracuse was able to climb back into the game thanks to some sloppy pay from Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights did not score over the final 2:51 of the first half. Syracuse scored the final six points of the half, including a three-point shot from Joe Girard III with four seconds left. Rutgers headed to the locker room with a slim 34-30 lead.
The second half saw both offenses heat up after a slow start. Rutgers was able to maintain a lead until an Alan Griffin layup with 7:15 left in the game gave Syracuse a one-point lead. Griffin led the Orange in scoring with 20 points.
With 5:38 left, Quincy Guerrier was able to get to the rim to put the Orange up 65-62. That would be it for Syracuse. The Scarlet Knights did not allow a field goal for the remainder of the game as they finished the game on a 17-4 run.
Jacob Young controlled the offense for Rutgers well against the Jim Boeheim zone defense. He finished with 18 points and 10 assists. Myles Johnson also logged a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Rutgers will open up conference play on Dec. 14 when they travel to Maryland to take on the Terrapins.