Syracuse had just one day to prepare for its season opener against Bryant. With nearly a week of practice under their belts since that contest, the Orange look to put together a better performance Friday when Niagara and favorite son Greg Paulus come to visit.
After coach Jim Boeheim tested positive for COVID-19, Syracuse (1-0) shut down its program Nov. 15 until Thanksgiving. The Orange opened against the Bulldogs the next day and escaped with an 85-84 decision with just one day of practice.
Buddy Boeheim scored 23 points, Illinois transfer Alan Griffin had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Quincy Guerrier had 15 points and 12 rebounds.
"You cannot play basketball when you don't practice," Boeheim said. "That's a fundamental thing everyone knows. We were playing really well two weeks ago."
Syracuse also received bad news in the opener when 6-10 senior Bourama Sidibe went down with a torn meniscus. The center will be out for four weeks.
Niagara paused all basketball activities Nov. 9 following a COVID-19 outbreak on campus, and the Purple Aces will have just a few more days to prepare for its opener than Syracuse did.
Niagara is led by second-year head coach Greg Paulus, a Syracuse native who was the Gatorade High School Football Player of the Year in 2004. He played basketball for four years at Duke before returning home and quarterbacking the Orange football team in 2009.
Paulus won the 2019-20 Joe B. Hall National Coach of the Year Award, which is presented annually to the top first-year coach in NCAA Division I college basketball.
"This is home," Paulus said. "Whether you're talking about growing up at (nearby Christian Brothers Academy High School) and coming back, playing that extra year at Syracuse -- which is something I'm very proud of ... to say that Syracuse is home."
The Purple Aces return four of their top five scorers from last season's 12-20 team. Junior guard Marcus Hammond earned All-MAAC First Team honors last season after leading the team in scoring (14.3) and 3-pointers.
Syracuse leads the all-time series 54-28 and has won the last nine. The schools met last season for the first time since 2000-01 and Buddy Boeheim sank five 3-pointers for the Orange, while Aces forward Greg Kuakumensah registered his second of two double-doubles on the season with 10 points and a career-high 11 rebounds.
--Field Level Media