It feels like ages ago but SU men’s basketball last touched the floor in a 79-75 loss to Georgetown. The Orange had a ten point lead going into the half and just like the Villanova game, found a way to relinquish it in the second half. Is it because SU shot just 36% from the field in the second half? Is it because GT’s Aminu Mohammed just took over? Or is it because Syracuse refused to use its bench players in the second half? The latter might be the biggest argument.
The bench players (Frank Anselem, Symir Torrence, and Benny Williams) combined for nine points in 19 minutes of action. Most of that production came in the first half though. Only Anselem hit the scorers table in the second frame which featured the Hoyas erasing a deficit to win.
Let’s preface this discussion with the fact that SU is famous for not dipping deep into the lineup. Every year this debate comes up and every year it is shot down. The Orange rank 354th in the nation with just 17 minutes per game allotted to “benchies,”according to KenPom. Before you hit the comment section with the “Benny Williams has done nothing,” “Frank Anselem has no clue how to play defense,”or “Symir Torrence is a walking turnover” stick with us.
If you saw the first half of last Saturday’s game, you saw each of these three making plays in the first half. Frank Anselem had a pair of slam dunks and flashed his athleticism in the transition game and post. Defensively, he was active and staying in passing lanes which he had yet to see this year. On top of that, his energy was on full display. The backup center was out to prove he deserves more opportunities. Perhaps that’s why he was the only bench member to see time in the second frame (all of three minutes).
Symir Torrence is still transitioning into his new role with Syracuse. The Marquette transfer is learning a new system and all. When the CNY native is on the floor, it opens up chances for Joe Girard to catch and shoot which makes this team very dangerous. JG3 has shown improvements with his ball-handling and creation thus far but if Torrence is on the floor with him, he doesn’t need to create his own shot. Torrence is an exceptional caretaker of the basketball and is one of the few players on this team that can drive to the rack. He had an impressive blow-by in the few minutes he played.
Then there’s Benny Williams. SU’s lone scholarship true frosh has struggled with his adjustment to the college game. However, you can’t teach his athleticism and nobody on this team is at that same level. For Williams and all of these guys playing off the bench, if they aren’t producing or doing anything productive then they shouldn’t play. Williams had a solid showing though in the first half against the Hoyas. The IMG Academy product had a highlight reel spinning score and applied pressure defensively. Now he did pick up two fouls in four minutes so that’s a problem but if he’s producing he needs to play. Everyone saw what the aforementioned Georgetown freshman Aminu Mohammed did right?
So the argument is: get these guys in the game to give the starters a blow so they aren’t playing 35+ minutes per game. Additionally, these three can present different problems for opponents when they’re in the game. Anselem can use his acceleration to get behind defenses in the transition. Torrence can dribble drive and dish to SU’s shooters. Finally, Williams has the frame and talent to make an impact he just needs to put it all together.