A small rotation got even smaller on Tuesday night when the Orange was struggling against St. Bonaventure in front of a restless home crowd. Sure, everybody was worried about the team’s rotation with nine scholarship players, but coach Jim Boeheim really only played five guys on his 71st birthday, and it proved exactly why he is in the Hall of Fame.
Seniors Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije led the way for the Orange, playing 39 and 38 minutes, respectively. Freshman Malachi Richardson also played 35 minutes. When Tyler Roberson wasn’t in early foul trouble, he was consistently on the court, and finished with 29 minutes. But who was the star of the night? Freshman Tyler Lydon who contributed a huge 31 minutes off of the bench.
Lydon did a little bit of everything in this game, further proving his worth to the rotation and coach Boeheim. On the night, he finished with 13 points, six rebounds, a block and a steal off of the bench. Don’t let body type fool you, though, because Lydon was actually a defensive improvement in the middle of the zone when Coleman only played six minutes in the first half. Coleman didn’t come out because of foul trouble, for once, and Lydon made a case for a starting role down the road.
In addition to his ability to challenge shots, Lydon hit some clutch looks on the offensive side of the floor, including a game-tying three late in the second half. Lydon shot 3-for-5, including 2-for-2 from behind the arc, and hit five clutch free throws in the second half when the Orange tried to pull away.
Lydon’s game certainly wasn’t perfect, as he really struggled to rebound the ball. However, that was the entire team’s problem on Tuesday night, minus Tyler Roberson. Yet, until someone proves that they can anchor the middle of the zone, Lydon will keep making a case for himself to join the starting lineup.
Next week when the Orange faces its first true test against Michigan/UConn, the zone will have to buckle down, box out, and fight in the trenches. This is Coleman’s real chance to prove his worth down low. His size should seriously give opponents trouble, but he is clearly still figuring out his game after a long rehab. If Coleman fails to do that, don’t be surprised to see Lydon come off the bench at the under-16 timeout to provide defensive relief. And if Coleman fails to convert on his inside chances, it’ll only make a stronger case for Lydon’s promotion.
So, should Lydon be the new starter? Not yet. Let’s revisit this topic after SU leaves Atlantis.