It was there for the taking. The Orange had a big-time win on their fingertips and let it slip through them. SU had so many opportunities to build on its lead and win the game late, but didn’t. This one stings and will for a while. Syracuse is young and has a lot of learning to do. Let’s see how that played out in the grade book.
Joe Girard III: D+
A day after he scored a career-high 31, the senior leader was nonexistent in the first half, going 0-5 from the field and scoring zero points. He missed a couple of easy layups inside that could have got him going, and couldn’t capitalize on the outside either. Finally, he made his first field goal before the under-16 timeout and nailed a couple of free throws before that to get going. Unfortunately, he clearly just does not have the athleticism to compete with the athletes of St. John’s and other teams of this caliber, he struggled to get open so much and ball-handling has always been a question with Girard. Missed free throws were a big part too, just unacceptable. A bad night for JG3.
Judah Mintz: B+
This man is a star. Full stop. His potential is through the roof. 16 first-half points (albeit on 13 shots) in a big-time environment is no joke. Against St. John’s heavy ball pressure, his presence was so massive. He has every dribble move, every layup around the basket. It’s so fun and impressive to watch. But, he didn’t get much going in the second half. The Red Strom defense did a very good job on him. It seemed he ran out of gas a little in the second half from having to work so hard getting the ball up the court. But, you’re not going to play this many minutes back-to-back nights again soon.
Chris Bell: B
A confident shooter is a dangerous shooter. He didn’t nail every shot, but he has the confidence to take them, and that’s only going to help moving forward. The long twos are infuriating, but when they’re going in you can’t complain. His release is so quick and high above his head it’s hard to contest, that’s the sign of a great shooter. But, he’s still a freshman who makes freshman mistakes. Some unwarranted shots and forces did not help SU when it started trailing in the second half.
Benny Williams: A-
From shuttered on the bench to an integral part of the lineup. He played every minute of the first half, and after Jim Boeheim called out him and Bell for their rebounding efforts against Richmond, responded with seven in the first half alone. He’s confident shooting and has a fire defensively that nobody saw last year. But, he got out-physicaled in the second half and struggled inside.
Jesse Edwards: C+
Another first half of foul trouble, and he was basically a non-factor in the beginning. He picked up a third foul quickly in the second half, but was aggressive posting up and seeking his shot. That’s what he always needs to do. He’s too talented to not be aggressive. On defense, he got very timid after getting that foul. Multiple times he let Soriano have an uncontested dunk, that can’t happen. He came alive late on offense when SU needed him because he did not get any help from the referees with the calls against him in the second half, but thankfully got bailed out by Hima when he came in. He made his free throws and did what he did on Monday, come alive in the last five minutes. Now, he needs to do it for 30-35 instead of moving forward.
Mounir Hima: A
Another terrific performance and effort in the first half from the transfer center. SU has not had a backup this active in a long time. Baye Moussa-Keita comes to mind when thinking of players blocking shots, rebounding, and setting screens on offense. The only thing keeping him from a perfect score is not finishing around the basket and that very silly jump-shot attempt.
Jim Boeheim: B-
Coaching is always important, and Boeheim made the right adjustments against St. John’s that he didn’t against Richmond. Justin Taylor and Maliq Brown played significantly in the first half Monday. Tuesday, it was Quadir Copeland getting the majority of the minutes off the bench in the first. Maybe he’s just seeing what works, but it is. Both teams shot under 40% from the field in the first half, and that worked for SU because it was able to limit St. John’s fast pace. In the second half, he continued to ride the starters, and maybe too much because they started to commit mental mistakes. His offense was bad for most of the second half, and especially out of timeouts. That is unacceptable.