Very rarely is the Syracuse offense the problem.
The last time it was a problem was toward the end of the regular season last year when it scored season-low points and looked like a team that wouldn’t make it out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The offense was not the problem on Monday—it was the St. Francis defense. It was better than it looked. It held Syracuse, the ninth-best team in the nation and a national powerhouse, to only 56 points in total and 30 in the first half. When talented players like C.J. Fair and Tyler Ennis combine for 3-of-21 from the field, that’s a sign that a defense is pretty good.
The good news out of this game was a win. Although it came in the final seconds, a win is a win. It was also great to see the young players like DaJuan Coleman and Jerami Grant lead the way. Coleman finished with 14 points and was 5-for-5 from the field in 18 minutes on the court. That’s solid court time and good numbers for the big guy to put up, especially as the season gets closer to ACC play. Grant had eight rebounds, which is big because Rakeem Christmas and Coleman combined for nine.
The next few games are going to be exciting to watch because of this game and how the team played. Obviously it was far from a typical Syracuse basketball performance, but players like Fair, who is expected to be a leader on the court, need to be more involved and need to hold more leadership. He was 2-for-13 from the field and numbers like that hurt. The ball needed to be spread around more and that was not the case. Ennis was 1-for-8 and if Fair isn’t going to be the leader, Ennis, as the point guard, is the next guy that the team and its fans will look to.
There is one indicator that says this game was not what it should have been. This is a game in which Ron Patterson, B.J. Johnson and Tyler Roberson had minutes. None of them set foot on the court. Syracuse needed its starters to pull ahead and lead the team. There was never a time in which Boeheim was comfortable pulling his starters, and that means things will have to change for the Maui Invitational. The competition will be tougher with matchups against Minnesota and Arkansas/California.
This game was a wake-up call. The Orange needs to play tougher to avoid these down-to-the-wire games against lesser opponents.
Save that energy and all the nerves for the Duke game when it is a two-point game with 12 seconds left in the second half.
Posted by: Austin Pollack
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