SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - Syracuse is heading home for the holidays, feeling pretty good about itself after a true team win over Montana State.
Now, head coach designee Mike Hopkins would have his players talk turkey rather than eating too much of it over break.
“The thing is to make sure they don’t eat too much turkey, and make sure they get in the gym when they’re home,” said Hopkins, who serenaded folks with a brief rendition of “Happy Holidays.”
Michael Gbinije scored 17 points and Dajuan Coleman hit for a season-high 13 points to help Syracuse on Tuesday night to a methodical 82-60 win over Montana State.
“We’re a work in progress,” Hopkins said. “We’re going to keep getting better and better. … We had a great team effort, they did it together with 22 assists, a lot of guys got involved. We have a good sense of happiness right before the holiday.”
Trevor Cooney chipped in with 12 points, Chinonso Obokoh recorded a career-high 11 and Tyler Lydon had 10 for the Orange (9-3). The last time the Orange had five players score 10 or more points was against Villanova on Dec. 20, 2014.
“This was great for the whole team,” said Coleman. “Everybody got in the stat sheet, scoring and rebounding and getting into the flow of the game. It was really great for us heading into break this way. We’ll relax and come back and get ready for ACC play.”
Syracuse has a Sunday matchup against Texas Southern before opening conference play next Wednesday at Pitt.
Coleman, a McDonald’s All-America, has battled knee injuries his entire career at Syracuse. Returning this season after missing most of the last two years, the junior center is a pivotal piece if the Orange are to return to the NCAA Tournament.
After scoring in double figures for the third time in the last five games, Coleman said his confidence is growing.
“This it best I’ve felt in three years,” he said.
The Orange continued to struggle from beyond the arc, hitting just 7 of 25 for 28 percent. They made 11 of 24 from the charity stripe.
Sarp Gobeloglu paced the Bobcats (5-7) with 13 points and Tyler Hall tallied 12. Montana State scored 18 points below its season average, shooting 36 percent from the field and 28 percent from 3-point range.
The Orange, who shot 35 percent from the field in the first half, made 11 of their first 14 shots in the second to build a 58-34 lead on Cooney’s 3-pointer with 12:23 to go.
Coleman scored seven of the Orange’s first 12 points after intermission. Gbinije scored eight points, including two 3-pointers, to pace the Orange blitz in the first 7:30 of the second half.
Syracuse, with just one more game before the start of Atlantic Coast Conference play, built a 31-17 halftime lead as head coach designee Mike Hopkins played a variety of lineups against the Bobcats. The Orange struggled from the arc, shooting 3 of 13 in the first half. Gbinije led the Orange with seven points at the half.
The Orange, who average 5.0 blocks a game, registered eight blocks in the first half. Lydon led with four.
The Bobcats shot 7 of 33 from the field and 2 of 16 from the 3 in the first half. The Bobcats leading scorers, Marcus Colbert and Hall, had five points between them in the first 20 minutes.
Tuesday night’s matchup was just the second game ever between the two schools. The Orange defeated the Bobcats 88-55 in the first round of the 1996 NCAA Tournament en route to the national championship game loss to Kentucky.
Montana State: Tuesday night’s game against the Orange marked the fourth and final game of a road trip that covered 5,000 miles. … Montana State lost to Buffalo Saturday night in the team’s first-ever visit to Upstate New York. … The Bobcats head west and open Big Sky play New Year’s Eve at Southern Utah.
Syracuse: Michael Gbinije entered the game sixth nationally in steals with nearly three a game. … Fifth-year senior guard Trevor Cooney has started 76 straight games. … Entering the game, Cooney and Gbinije had scored in double figures in each of the Orange’s 11 games. … Head coach Jim Boeheim returns from his nine-game suspension Jan. 9 against No. 7 North Carolina at the Carrier Dome.
Montana State visits Southern Utah on Dec. 31.
Syracuse hosts Texas Southern Sunday.
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