There wasn’t a fan in the Carrier Dome that didn’t stand up and give coach Jim Boeheim an ovation when he rose from the tunnel and saluted the crowd. As temporary interim head coach, Mike Hopkins led Syracuse to a lackluster 4-5 record with some pretty poor losses. So, with Boehem having served his nine game suspension, one of the main storylines was how the team would look.
The biggest noticeable difference in the game was the Orange’s rebounding. It’s clear that Boeheim stressed rebounding over anything else in the short week of practice, and it certainly paid off. As one of the worst rebounding teams in the country, SU actually outrebounded a Tar Heels team that is among the nation’s leaders in boards. The Orange was an average of minus-2 rebounds per game versus its opponents while the Tar Heels averaged 11 more per game than their opponents. Dajuan Coleman did a fantastic job collecting six offensive rebounds while the guards played a huge role off of missed shots too. All five starters had at least five rebounds.
However, the most important difference in the Orange’s game was the rotation and the overall look of the offense. Up until yesterday’s game, Michael Gbinije had been the primary ball handler for SU. With the fifth-year senior struggling, though, Boeheim turned to a lineup that featured Gbinije off of the ball in the first half. Unfortunately, Franklin Howard and Kaleb Joseph just look lost on the floor and the offense was incredibly inefficient with either of the two running the point. In seven minutes, the two combined to shoot 0-for-2 with two rebounds and a turnover.
Gbinije, on the other hand, had one of his worst games of the season. He didn’t make a shot through the first half and finished the day just 3-of-13 from the floor, scoring ten points. He missed all six of his three point shots.
SU’s tournament hopes are looking bleak as the team sits at 10-7 and are winless in ACC play. Boeheim’s return might be the only thing that can catapult the sleeping offense and poor rebounding, as Syraucse’s schedule doesn’t get any easier. After winnable games against Boston College and Wake Forest, the Orange must travel to Duke and Virginia.