Mark it down as the first major conference win of the Adrian Autry era. It was a sloppy first half, and at times a sloppy second half, but Syracuse used a huge early run to start the second frame to pull away from LSU and take down the Tigers. A lot of guys played key roles for the Orange, and they were the ones you’d expect, we’ll get to them in a bit, but let’s show some love to Quadir Copeland. With JJ Starling not having his best stuff, Copeland stepped in during the second half and righted the ship on both ends for Syracuse, with his flashy playmaking and stout defense, he is so fun to watch. Let’s get into the full report card:
Adrian Autry: B
Autry’s wing rotations are going to be the most talked about thing when it comes to this game and probably moving forward because it is quite clear that there is a clear pecking order emerging of Bell and Taylor over Williams and Copeland. In the first half, the starters combined for 32 minutes and the reserves nine. Who he is mixing and matching is unclear on a game-to-game basis, and it’s unclear what the rhyme or reason is for pairing one or two guys with another. Bell and Taylor have a stranglehold on the spots right now, and that does not look to be changing. Aside from that, Syracuse played a majority of man throughout the first half, and it worked rather well. LSU did not shoot it well from outside the arc, which helped Syracuse, but credit to the Orange defense for making those tough shots. As an in-game coach, he is similar to Jim Boeheim in some ways, getting on officials being one of them, but he has a different poise and stature than Boeheim. His assistant coaches do a lot of the actual coaching, but Autry is always there for positive reinforcement with his players as they come off the court, which is unique.
Judah Mintz: A
Mintz and Starling both did a better job of finding their teammates in this game compared to what we saw against Tennessee and Gonzaga, even if the stat sheet does not say it. Multiple times they were able to drive the lane and drop the ball off the the big on the floor, whether it was Maliq Brown or Naheem McLeod. Control is still something Mintz is working on, and he does an awful lot of talking to the officials when he does not get a call, but he’s the most talented player on the team, and that won’t change. He scored in double figures in the first half, getting to the line 11 times, making 10 of them. Then, he opened the second half with a personal 8-0 run, with a couple of and-1s and a spot-up corner three. The game runs through him and he showed that with a career-high 33 points.
J.J. Starling: C-
As mentioned above, he is one of, if not the best passers on the team, and does nearly as good of a job as MiIntz driving into the lane and finishing or drawing contact. But, his unselfishness was a little too much in this game, and he was even a little too unselfish, which caused some turnovers. Mintz has come along more as a shooter, and that is to his backcourt mate’s downfall, as him not being a threat out there hurts when Mintz has the ball and the Notre Dame transfer is hanging out on the perimeter, which allows his man to crash on a driver or shooter. His playmaking is such a difference maker though and he controls the offense with his poise and leadership.
Chris Bell: B
Bell’s grade is what it is because he didn’t shoot the ball well in the first half, and if he’s not shooting well, he really doesn’t offer much else besides being a threat to shoot the ball, and you always have to respect his shooting ability. But, he caught fire in the second half to put up 20 points, and when he’s going, he’s dangerous. His rebounding is still not there, but his defense was decent as the Orange continued to play a lot of man-to-man. His facilitating and play-making are getting better, but he has to take the ball to the basket and not settle for mid-range jumpers. Better things happen when you take the ball to the basket. But, we must understand Bell is still only a sophomore and developing, he’s still evolving as a basketball player.
Justin Taylor: B+
His grade is higher than Chris Bell’s because he does what Bell does not, rebound. The most consistent rebounder on the team, Taylor’s body is such an asset when it comes to the defensive end of the court, and even though he may not be quick, he positions himself very well. He hit a three in the first half that helped SU start the game strong, and having him confident shooting the ball will be essential to how far Syracuse can go this season because this is not a team with a plethora of shooting options. His secondary playing was also strong in this game, as often he would receive the ball on the wing or in the corner, and drive and kick to Bell who was hot in the second half.
Naheem McLeod: A-
He came out of the gates with about as much energy as you could ask for. Running the floor, blocking shots finishing around the basket, and rebounding the basketball. He kind of lumbers around the floor, but give the guy a break, he’s 7’4 and you can only have so much energy and exertion in that body. 25 minutes a game is probably his max, but if you can get a good 20/25 from him, that is a huge advantage. He did a really good job for Syracuse on both ends of the floor tonight.
Maliq Brown: B
As the most consistent player off the bench, Brown earns his way into the Fizz Report Card, and for the role he’s playing, he’s doing a solid job. LSU outrebounded the Orange in the first half, and Brown is a part of that considering he is often the Orange’s tallest player on the court when he’s out there. His length is bothersome to opposing forwards and bigs, but he does get out-physicalled at times and that is an issue moving forward for SU. LSU missed a lot of shots early in the second half to his rebounding benefit. Plus, he finishes strong at the rim and does what he can in the screen game to be successful, which is what you want from a backup big.