Syracuse opened its season with an 83-72 win over New Hampshire in the first game of the Adrian Autry era. The Orange came out blazing and were up by 23 at one point in the first half on the back of a starting lineup of Judah Mintz, J.J. Starling, Justin Taylor, Chris Bell, and Naheem McLeod.
When the subs started entering, most notably Maliq Brown, Quadir Copeland, and Kyle Cuffe Jr., things were fine for the most part, but the Orange started to leak oil towards the end of the first half and only led by a dozen at the break after starting fast, playing with energy, and getting up and down the floor in transition.
The two big notes of the evening were on each end of the floor. Defensively was most notable, as Syracuse’s man defense to open the game was fiery, causing turnovers, and allowing the Orange to play with pace. But, as the game wore on, and Syracuse’s size advantage was evident, New Hampshire started to take advantage of SU’s bigs and created a lot of open shots. That forced the zone to be broken out early in the Autry era, especially with some of the issues the Orange were dealing with throughout the game.
“We know we’re not going to be able to play man for the whole season, especially when we get in foul trouble or depending on the team we’re playing,” Taylor said to syracuse.com. “Us six from last year know it well, but the new guys, we’ve taught them that and they’ve transitioned to it. In the long run, it’s going to be good to be able to play both man and 2-3.”
Mintz was the one in foul trouble, as he picked up his fourth foul early in the second half and only ended up playing 27 minutes, but still finished with 20 points on the evening to go along with three assists, three rebounds, and three steals.
“We obviously gotta fine-tune some things up,” Mintz said to syracuse.com. “We got a couple of new guys that aren’t accustomed to running the zone, especially guards. Just getting used to it, working on it. I think we’re gonna be better at it, but I think we got the athleticism and the team to be able to use it.”
It was especially interesting that SU decided to go to the zone with four-guard lineups (Mintz, Starling, Cuffe, and Copeland) on the floor, meaning two of them had to play on the wing, which did not go well contesting the Wildcats shooters, who nailed eight triples over the course of the evening. On that note, on the offensive end of the court, shooting was once again a deficiency for Syracuse.
Over the offseason, Mintz, Starling, and Copeland were hailed for having improved their shooting, and the three of them combined to go 1-10 from behind the arc. If it weren’t for Taylor, who went 2-3 and scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half, the Orange could have been in big trouble against New Hampshire, who edged SU 40-39 over the final 20 minutes.
Syracuse struggled to shoot last season, and with Bell not on the mark against UNH and Benny Williams still suspended, shooting was at a premium in this game, and one that SU desperately could have used to build more of a cushion throughout the second half as the Wildcats were nipping at the Orange’s heels.
Overall, with just a day off between games to start the year, Wednesday’s matchup with Canisius can go one of two ways for Syracuse. Either, the Orange come out loose and motivated after the way Monday’s opener went, or they are fatigued and come out flat, and it’s a dogfight all night. Either way, there are plenty more questions than answers for Autry’s squad as the early season continues.