Saturday basketball in the Carrier Dome always has a different feeling than others, but the feeling at the end of Saturday’s game had a very familiar feeling. For the 52nd time in a row, Syracuse has defeated Colgate. This time, 72-58.
But enough nostalgia of when the streak began in 1963. This is a very different team than Syracuse teams of the past.
And SU looked like a different team than we’ve seen this year as well.
After winning the opening tip-off, Syracuse showed immediately it was not backing away from the three-point shot. Instead, it was going to back away from the net. Frank Howard opened scoring with a three, and the rest of the team got the memo. SU shot 36.8 percent from beyond the arc.
Yet the threes were no substitute for Syracuse’s 2017 forte: scoring in the paint. The Orange ended with 28 points in the paint, many off of impressive athleticism from Oshae Brissett.
The freshman showed rising confidence, getting to the rim, making spin moves and hitting layups from behind his back. Brissett ended the game with 20 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists. He also notched his team-leading 80th rebound this season in the game.
Those rebounds have been key for Syracuse. By grabbing offensive rebounds, Syracuse has been able to capitalize on second chance points, especially after the high percentage of missed three-pointers Syracuse has had of late. Against Colgate, SU scored 8 second-chance points. Rebounds have also provided effective defense for the Orange
Against Colgate, SU was streaky. The Orange had a(n)
- 10-0 run early in the first half,
- 8-0 run late in the first half, and another
- 8-0 run late in the second half.
But Syracuse had its fair share of struggles against the Raiders as well.
Early in the game, SU turned the ball over on passes that went out of bounds. In the post game press conference, Head Coach Jim Boeheim said that the turnovers are not all the fault of the players credited with them.
“We’ve got to be aware of where the ball is and where [the players] should be,” Boeheim said.
Again, Syracuse showed a lack for three-point defense. SU allowed Colgate to hit 40 percent of its threes. Boeheim and the players described the Raiders after the game as being committed to only shooting the three.
“Most teams when they get inside they try to score a little bit. They never wanted to score inside. They were trying to get the ball back out,” Boeheim said.
Boeheim said that strategy is typically unsuccessful against the Orange.
“If people are just going to take the three and take the whole possession, we usually beat those teams,” Boeheim said. “They’re going to make threes, but they get nothing else.”
But although he said there are areas where this defense still has to improve, Battle said the defense is Syracuse’s greatest area of improvement from last year.
This Syracuse team is arguably operating from under the radar at the moment. Coming into today’s game, Battle was second in the ACC in scoring (20.3 points per game; now 20.7), Brissett was fourth in the ACC in rebounds (9.8 per game; now 9.2) and Howard (1st) and Battle (5th) were in the top 5 for steals per game in the conference.
This game is the epitome of a non-conference game for Syracuse, especially with knowing that a stacked ACC is waiting for the Orange in three weeks. But this game should not be viewed as only an easy win to build a résumé. As conference play inches closer, momentum is going to be important as ever—something SU lacked last year and which wound up costing the Orange in the end.
After solid games against UConn on the big stage and more improvements against Colgate, this young Syracuse team is primed with the confidence it needs to move forward strong. After the game, Battle, Howard, Brissett and Dolezaj all said they were confident in themselves and in their team and they see their improvement from game to game.
“I feel like a lot of players come here to make plays. Doesn’t matter whether you’re starting or sitting on the bench,” Brissett said. “Coach [Boeheim] trusts all of us on the team. When Coach trusts us, that gives us confidence in ourselves.”
Published: David Edelstein