For Syracuse to continue its improbable Tournament run with a victory over Houston, it must stop an efficient Cougars offense. While the 2-3 zone flummoxed West Virginia in the Round of 32, Kelvin Sampson’s Houston squad has had more time to prepare than WVU. It also has a better offensive attack, led by 6-foot-5 guard Quentin Grimes.
Throughout the season, when Syracuse has struggled to defend wing players, head coach Jim Boeheim has subbed out Alan Griffin and implemented forward Robert Braswell into the lineup.
“Our defense, Robert’s been really good on defense,” Boeheim said following SU’s victory over the Mountaineers. “Alan’s just struggled on defense. It’s not his offense. He’s really struggled on the defensive end to rebound. We have to have defensive rebounding, first of all.”
Boeheim has been increasingly complimentary of his reserve over the past few weeks, as Braswell has played at least 20 minutes since the ACC tournament began. The 6-foot-7 redshirt sophomore isn’t a major threat to score, but with so many playmakers already on the court, Syracuse doesn’t need Braswell to score in double-figures. However, he isn’t afraid to take open shots, and has hit at least one triple in each of the past five games.
While Braswell is averaging less than four points, his major contributions don’t show up on the stat sheet. After three years in the program, Braswell rarely misses rotations in the 2-3 zone, and is solid at contesting shots on the wing, and rotating underneath the basket for defensive rebounds.
With a lack of solid bigs serving as Syracuse’s biggest weakness, Braswell has filled in, offering a versatile skillset to contribute in propelling SU’s NCAA Tournament run.
“Robert’s really getting there,” Boeheim said.
It seems like Braswell’s playing time won’t diminish any time soon, as Syracuse has found a lineup and rotation that has pushed the Orange to their best play throughout the season. While he won’t pad the stat sheet, Braswell is a key factor for SU’s past success, and future opportunities.