Elijah Hughes sparks Syracuse in 82-52 win over Arkansas State

first_imgBefore the season, Hughes was expected to provide something new, another scoring option on a team that didn’t seem to have enough last year. He’d watched Syracuse’s at-times stagnant offense from the sidelines a year ago due to transfer rules. He, and everyone on the team, knew he’d have a big role this time around.Hughes has brought that added scoring, finishing in double figures in all but two games. But that consistency has also made his contributions at times seem muted. He hasn’t had the scoring outbursts of Battle, or the big games on the glass like Oshae Brissett. He’s just kept filling it up, game after game.Saturday, Syracuse needed that. The Orange couldn’t find points at the rim, and so their most consistent bucket-getter had to do his thing again.First, Hughes cut backdoor for a righty slam on a Dolezaj bounce pass. Then he swished a 3 from the right corner and another from the top of the key. The second 3 came moments after the Red Wolves’ Ty Cockfield silenced the crowd with a 3 of his own. Whenever Arkansas State looked to pull away, Hughes answered, and his contributions put SU up two at the break.“Elijah saved us early with those two 3s when we were struggling,” Boeheim said.Gabriel Kotico | Contributing PhotographerIn the season’s first nine games, the Orange showed themselves to be a second-half team. That changed in the last two contests, both losses where Syracuse played better in the first half. But on Saturday, in need of a second-half lift it had found earlier this season, Boeheim wanted his team to “wake up,” Hughes said. “That’s what we did,” Hughes added.“We played with more sense of urgency,” Hughes said of the second half. “We just got after it more. We wanted it and we just wanted to get out to a big lead.”Early in the second 20 minutes, Brissett drove right and scooped it up with his right hand, through contact, for an and-1. He knocked down the bonus free throw. Then, Brissett found a slicing Hughes down the middle of the lane for a lefty finish and another three-point play. All of a sudden, SU found itself up nine.Minutes later, Hughes hit a 3 from the left corner. It put the Orange up 14, and even as Hughes’ face remained stoic like it does almost all game, every game, the Carrier Dome fans roared their approval. While things hadn’t been perfect for SU on Saturday, it was Hughes who always seemed to have the needed answer, with multiple clutch 3s in the first half and high-rising defense at the rim.He did it with steals, like the one to set up the alley-oop (although he wasn’t credited with that takeaway), and he did it with passes, like the one a few minutes later to a wide open Brissett for a pick-and-pop 3. He didn’t force shots, but made his open looks count.“When I’m open, I’m gonna shoot the ball, nothing crazy,” Hughes said. “My teammates do a good job of finding me, and I just try to make every shot I take.”There are tougher tests coming for Syracuse. A week from today, the Orange host a St. Bonaventure team that won in the Carrier Dome last year. A week after that, ACC play starts.Improvements will need to continue. There’s still a rocky start to the season to make up for. But as SU players prepare to celebrate Christmas, with some heading home to be with their families, they’ll get to do so off a win. For one day, Hughes was right: “we good”. Comments On Wednesday, the day after Syracuse lost its second-straight game, Elijah Hughes sent out a tweet.“Riding w my dawgs forever, we good” the tweet read. It hasn’t always been easy for SU this season, and that showed in losses against Old Dominion and Buffalo.But when Hughes stole the ball midway through the second half against Arkansas State, jump-starting a Frank Howard to Tyus Battle alley-oop at the other end, the East Carolina-transfer ensured that the Orange would be OK.“I’m out there to just be a player,” Hughes said. “Coach wants me to make plays on both sides of the floor, and that’s what I feel like I had to do.”Arkansas State (5-7) wasn’t good enough to do more than threaten Syracuse (8-4) in an eventual 82-52 Orange win at the Carrier Dome on Saturday. When it faced that threat, SU showed many of the same issues it has displayed all season inside the paint and on the offensive end. Hughes made sure that wouldn’t prove decisive, though, with a tied-for-team-high 17 points, along with three 3s and two blocks.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“I think he’s getting better,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said. “I think we forget that he sat out a year.” Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Published on December 22, 2018 at 4:06 pm Contact Billy: wmheyen@syr.edu | @Wheyen3last_img read more