“We knew that we were favored a little bit in this game,” said Triche. “So we wanted not to give a team like that confidence in thinking that they can win the game. C.J. did a great job for us starting the game off with the first six points or so. He exploited a mismatch, and we tried to go to him early. He kind of jump-started us.”
Montana was playing without its leading scorer, Mathias Ward, who averaged 20 points per game. The Grizzlies shot a miserable 20 percent (11-for-54) and missed 27 of 31 3-pointers. In addition, they also had more turnovers (17) than made baskets.
Early on, it was Fair who took advantage of the mismatch scoring nine points in the opening seven minutes to give Syracuse an 18-4 lead. The Orange hit seven of its first nine shots as superior athleticism and size created easy scoring opportunities almost every time down the court.
Due to its size advantage, Montana struggled to get quality shots, while missing eight consecutive in a span of more than 6 minutes.
Rakeem Christmas followed Fair's right wing 3-pointer with an alley-oop dunk off a fancy feed from Carter-Williams. James Southerland (who finished with nine points) hit a 3-pointer that extended Syracuse's margin to 30-11 with less than 6 minutes to go in the half.
All told, in the first half went 14-for-25 from the field, leading to a 38-15 advantage at the break. But instead of letting down, SU just kept going, with a 17-2 spurt to start the second half. Midway Trevor Cooney launched up a 3 as everything was going well for the Orange, as they increased their margin to 60-20, totally out of the Grizzlies’ reach.
With the game well in hand, the SU starters exited as bench players and reserves logged in productive playing time and gave the main men rest for the next round.