In its opening game against Cornell on November 8, the Syracuse men’s basketball team came out a little stale.
The game, which the Orange won 82-60 was a tale of two halves as they overcame a 14-point deficit during the first half. Paced by Trevor Cooney’s 27 points, the Orange outscored Cornell 50-22 in the second half to pull away.
I thought Cornell did a tremendous job in the first half—not only ball movement, but defensively they played us very hard…I thought in the second half we made a couple of adjustments defensively—we took away the high-post pass, we got to the shooters better and I thought our movement was a little better. When you don’t move on defense, it does not matter what defense you play.
In their second game, an 89-74 victory over Fordham on November 12, a much better effort was put forth as the Orange went into the half with a 46-21 lead.
Fordham broke out of their offensive slump and put 53 points on the Orange in the second half, but the game was never in question. What was in question was the team’s ability to stay focused on defense and how its inexperience is playing a role.
After the game, Boeheim offered,
They made a couple tough shots in that group, but the second half I think we felt we had control of the game. We lost our defensive edge, and they took advantage of that and that’s something that we obviously have to work on. Our guards are inexperienced in terms of playing out there and knowing how to play the front of the zone and keeping guys in front of it.
And that’s where the Syracuse Orange are right now. They have tremendous talent and size, but their lack of experience will make them a work in progress. This doesn’t mean this is a bad team.
It means that Syracuse fans should be patient.
Of the returning starters from last season, Only C.J. Fair (34.9 minutes per game) and Rakeem Christmas (20.8 mpg) played significant minutes. DaJuan Coleman (12.7 mpg) and Cooney (11.2) did yeoman’s work, but there is a big difference between playing 20-plus minutes per game and playing 10 minutes per game.
Add to that, freshman Tyler Ennis has been thrust in to the starting point guard role and has averaged almost 30 minutes per game in his two efforts and you have the makings of a team with growing pains.
That’s the thing about experience. You have to play to get it. It would be, as Boeheim said, “the height of foolishness” to expect this team to win 29 or 30 games. They lost too much from last year, with Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland going to the NBA and Brandon Triche graduating, to think last year’s effort can be easily maintained.
Again, this doesn’t mean they can’t be an elite team. It just means that it will take time to learn how to play within the system and with each other.
This season’s Orange team could be compared to making a loaf of bread.
When making bread, traditional ingredients such as flour, water and yeast are the essentials. The better the ingredients, the better the bread, but just throwing them together in a bowl does not do the job. The ingredients must be mixed together with care to allow the yeast to make the dough rise.
But once the dough rises, it must be “punched down” and allowed to rise again, otherwise, you create a poor product. Time, effort and patience are the keys.
With ingredients such as talent, experience and size, this team will have many successes. The insertion of youth can help the team rise but only time, effort and patience will ensure that the final product is acceptable.