Syracuse clawed its way back from a 15 point first half deficit Friday night, but the young team couldn’t get enough defensive rebounds and make enough big shots down the stretch in a 85-64 loss to Penn State at Barclays Center.
Penn State’s Mike Watkins was the difference in the game. The 6’9, 257 pound Nittany Lions center grabbed a staggering 10 offensive rebounds. Overall, Syracuse was out rebounded 56 to 30. Not gonna win many games when that is the case.
The Orange actually made strides Friday night. They showed some fight. Role players like Quincy Guerrier really stepped up (13 points, 10 rebounds), unlike the other night. But, once again, the lack of production at the center position cost them.
It took Bourama Sidibe till the second half to record a stat as he battled foul trouble all night. Sidibe eventually fouled out with 2 points and 1 offensive rebound. The Orange’s starting center finished the game with 0 defensive rebounds.
“We have to get more out of our center position, at least rebounding,” Coach Boeheim said. “I’m surprised we were in the game. When we tied it we were down 24 rebounds.”
The issue is this isn’t going to get any easier. There are plenty of Mike Watkins’ in ACC play. Jesse Edwards, who didn’t see the floor Friday, seems like he isn’t ready for meaningful minutes this year. So it comes down to Sidibe, which is really, really scary.
“Bourama has got to be able to contribute out there,” Boeheim said. “He was out of the game almost without a whimper.”
He has shown flashes, but by this point we all can agree the Sidibe thing is not going to get much better. He’s not the answer. I know its partially because of health issues but he hasn’t developed like maybe many had hoped.
Given that, it might be time for Jim to actually contemplate some man defense at times like he teased, once again, earlier this year. I’m a defender of the 2-3 zone as much as anyone. But during certain matchups this year, it might be the best option.
It would hurt the defensive product, which in a trying time to watch Syracuse basketball has remained remarkably consistent throughout. However, it might be worth it.
You can point to recruiting. You can point to player development. All are true. It’s hard to see the center position not being a problem going forward though.
You can get away with it during Colgate, but we will probably have this same conversation again in ACC play and even in a couple weeks against Omer Yurtseven and Georgetown.
Syracuse came to Barclays with high hopes. Like previous seasons, there was reason to be optimistic about this team based on how they fared in the mid major portion of the schedule. This team isn’t a lost cause. There is something there and they showed fight Friday.
However, after getting a chance to see them take on a couple real opponents, we now know there is one major dilemma going forward: the center position.
What makes it even more frustrating, it’s been the same dilemma for a while.