Syracuse’s second-straight dominant defensive performance leads to 13-8 win over Cornell

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on April 9, 2019 at 8:11 pm Contact Michael: mmcclear@syr.edu | @MikeJMcCleary Drake Porter shrugged his shoulders as he ran off the field at the end of the first quarter. A shot had just bounced off his leg and high into the air, waiting out the buzzer above the ground. He reached the sideline, and Syracuse players slapped his helmet. After 15 minutes, he held the nation’s No. 2 offense to one goal.“The shots I was getting … they were so easy,” Porter said. “It’s not like there were a lot of them, either.”No. 9 Syracuse (7-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) had been in this position before, and it capitalized in a 13-8 win over No. 8 Cornell (7-4, 2-2 Ivy). Before each contest, a promo of SU’s greatest moments shows charges down the field, shots from far outside the crease and jumping celebrations of the Orange’s various championship runs. Within the tape, Syracuse’s white throwback jerseys on Tuesday represent the only constant, the only remnant of a changing game the Orange have been forced to adapt to, one that had Syracuse with three losses looking to avoid potentially a fatal blow against the Big Red.But Syracuse’s reality is defined not by jerseys, but by a defensive identity that allowed the Orange to limit two top-five offenses to its lowest scoring totals of its respective seasons in back-to-back weeks. Prior to Tuesday, Cornell had yet to score less than 11 goals in a game so far this season. By controlling the pace and tightening its one-on-one matchups, Syracuse limited it to eight.“For years Syracuse has been played like we played against Cornell,” SU head coach John Desko said. “Teams want to hold the ball — before the shot clock. Now when you get things to your offensive end of the field, you tend to want to force things because you’re in a hurry. The shoe’s been on the other foot, so to speak.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textWhile the game had no impact on its conference standing, the win avoided the precarious situation of a second nonconference loss. Searching for an at-large bid, the victory diminished SU’s shocking season-opening loss to Colgate.The pregame talk circulated much around the matchups SU would employ against the Big Red’s offense, averaging 15.9 points per contest. As expected, the Orange placed top defender Nick Mellen on Cornell’s point-leader Jeff Teat and rotated short-stick defenders and long poles on the Big Red’s other attack. Mellen immediately flashed to the left-handed Teat’s strong side, a nugget he picked up from two prior matchups with Teat.Syracuse opened the the scoring, then added two more to establish its lead. But Teat flashed his distribution skills on CU’s first goal. SU adjusted, though. The Orange’s short-stick defensive midfielders and defenders rarely left shooters unattended. While the first slide is often clean, Mellen said, Syracuse better executed its second and third slides, and the normally patient CU offense reverted to the inverse strategy and forced shots toward the goal. Big Red head coach Peter Milliman said CU works best when it holds the ball for nearly a minute with no shot and gets one try each possession. But Cornell got “apprehensive,” Milliman said and took the open chances it was given. “They couldn’t really find any gaps and openings,” Mellen said. “We were just suffocating them the whole game.”The remaining play consisted of a defensive clinic from Syracuse: Peter Dearth hawked a shot out of the air, Porter saved open shots and shots in tight space and Mellen bumped Teat outside the crease and force the elite passer to throw the ball into his stick on a rotation. As Cornell threatened at times, Mellen inched toward the goal, but checked back over his shoulder every few seconds to keep Teat in sight. Teat’s assist in the first quarter was his only point of the half — the first of just two in the game.On the other end, Syracuse camped behind the goal, waited for an opening and darted in front. It fired in multiple goals fading away from the cage after draining the shot clock. Cornell, looking to come back from a deficit, took shots early. The game plan kept the ball on the offensive side of the field and took the strategy Cornell had practiced in the week leading up to the matchup and swept it beneath them.“When they were down, we tried to push a little bit more: force some shots,” Milliman said. “And that was a tough one for us. Because it doesn’t work well for us.”Following Bradley Voigt’s goal that pushed the Syracuse lead to five, the senior turned to the sideline and boasted to a row of crimson statues. Some barked back, but there was little Cornell could do to respond, little answer to the game plan the Orange had set in place. The free-flowing, assist-heavy offense that had led Cornell to some of the best offensive performances in the nation was halted. And Syracuse found comfort in its identity.“We wanted to make their offense watch as much as we could,” Desko said. “And we did.” Commentslast_img

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