BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Similar to the horde of orange-clad fans in possession of first-come, first-served general admission tickets to its first-round game of the ACC Tournament, the Syracuse basketball team raced out of the gate as quickly as possible in making sure to be in an advantageous position on Tuesday night.
Freshman Marek Dolezaj scored a career-high 20 points as all five starters scored in double figures for the 11th-seeded Orange in defeating No. 14 Wake Forest 74-63 in the first round of the ACC Tournament. Syracuse advances to play sixth-seeded (and No. 12 in the AP Poll) North Carolina in the nightcap tomorrow evening in the second round.
In a game it desperately had to win to keep its NCAA Tournament at-large hopes realistically alive, Syracuse led from wire-to-wire, opening up a 20-4 lead in the process. Dolezaj, whose career high before tonight was 12 in a win against Boston College on Jan. 24, made six of his seven field goal attempts while knocking home 8-of-10 from the foul line to pace the Orange. He also was a presence on the defensive end also, as he had four rebounds, two blocks, one steal and a few other deflections defensively.
“Marek was tremendous getting into the open spots,” said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. “He has been looking to score better over the last part of the year.
“When [Wake Forest] went to the zone, they left [Marek] in open spots, and he converted in the fast break situations,” Boeheim continued. “When they pressed, he took the ball to the basket. In the middle of the zone, they didn’t guard him in the high post area. He can make that shot. I thought he really played well. He was aggressive. He made some good passes. But he was very, very good today.”
Guard Tyus Battle had 18 points while his backcourt mate, Frank Howard, had 11. Forward Oshae Brissett and center Paschak Chukwu each almost posted double-doubles, with Brissett accounting for 10 points and nine rebounds before fouling out and Chukwu scoring 14 points with nine rebounds and three blocked shots.
Wake Forest cut a 19-point deficit down to six late in the second half, but would come no closer. Guard Bryant Crawford led all scorers with 22 points for the Demon Deacons.