To borrow a Dino Babers phrase, the freshmen showed Jim Boeheim they can cut the grass tonight. Syracuse leaned heavily on its newbies to gut out a 72-70 win over Maryland in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
A bad back couldn’t slow down Tyus Battle. Both the guard and Jim Boeheim said Battle was playing at about 50 percent health in the game. Down the stretch, the Orange relied heavily on the sophomore, who scored SU’s final nine points, including a go-ahead three to give Syracuse a 68-66 lead with 59 seconds left.
But none of that would have been set up if it weren’t for the efforts of the newcomers.
The Orange’s three freshmen, consisting of Oshae Brissett, Marek Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe, combined for 33 points and 24 rebounds, most of which came off the bench. The length was all over the place all game long by getting in passing lanes, tipping out rebounds and diving for loose balls.
Brissett led the way for the new guys with his second straight double-double (15 points, 13 rebounds), and has clearly shown in the early going that he’s not afraid of the big moment.
“I was just doing stuff too fast,” Brissett said. “Now I’m just trying to take it slow and just take every game like it’s a regular game.”
Dolezaj on the other hand has surprised in seemingly every game. He continues to excel in the hustle department with extending offensive possessions with his length. Tonight, was a little extra special for Dolezaj though. His parents made the more than 4,200 mile trek to Syracuse for tonight’s game which featured two Slovaks. Maryland’s Michal Cekovsky started on the other end, but didn’t make nearly the impact as Dolezaj, who tied his career high of 10 points after back to back scoreless outings.
“When I was in Slovakia, [my parents] were at every game when I played, so it’s nothing new,” Dolezaj said. “I never played with [Cekovsky], but I know him. I was with him in one year, but he left Slovakia when he was young. It’s really good [to play against Cekovsky and have] some Slovakian guy I can speak with.”
But the freshman reunions didn’t end there. Brissett also met up with one of his fellow countrymen. Maryland’s Justin Jackson is also a Canada native. Throughout the game, Canadian flags were waved in the stands and the two had a friendly handshake before the game.
“I’m gonna talk trash to [Jackson] after the game, we had a little bet on this,” Brissett said.
For the first time ever, the Orange did not have a single top ESPN 100 recruit in its class, which worried the fanbase. But so far that has not shown up on the floor.
“We have a great team,” Brissett said. “A lot of people were counting us out, but we’re not looking at that. We want to come in every night and fight.”