An Average Win for the Orange

This was an average performance for the Orange. It wasn’t the Michigan State game and it wasn’t the William and Mary game. This one was somewhere right in between. It was a comfortable win despite Iona never letting up and always closing the gap after a Syracuse run. But Syracuse led wire-to-wire and won, 83-77.

Two of the best ways to beat the 2-3 zone are to move the ball to get open three-point shots or going over the top of the zone. Iona attacked in both ways but was only successful in one. The Gaels were able to move the ball well to create some open three-point attempts but they were not falling. They missed their first eight attempts and were 4 for 19 at the half. But don’t give too much credit to the Orange defense. About 12 of those 19 were open shots.

What was working for them was going over the top to Mike Glover. Glover has been unbelievable so far this year. He’s averaging over 22 points and 11 rebounds per contest. And those stats don’t even begin to tell how dominant he has been. He’s averaging 22 points on just 13 shot attempts. Granted, Glover has been doing this against the likes of Long Island and Fairleigh Dickinson but he proved he could do it against a top-10 opponent last night.

At the half Glover already had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds and finished the night with 25 points and 16 boards. That might wind up being one of the most dominating performances against the Orange they will see all season. Oh, and he did that on just 11 shots.

So they can’t shoot the three, have an unbelievable presence inside but decide to continue shooting in lieu of getting the ball to Glover. Just 11 shots? How can someone that dominant get just 11 shots while the three starting guards shoot 10 of 32 from three-point range? Iona settled too much for those shots instead of using their best weapon to his full extent.

On the other hand, Syracuse played to their biggest strength – easy buckets. The Orange excel when they push the tempo and share the ball resulting in a slightly more difficult lay-p drill. They dominated in the fast break department and in the half court set, they made the extra pass that often led to a lay-up or dunk.

The stats show Kris Joseph had a fabulous day. He was 8 for 11 for 21 points but those stats are the result of a total team effort. Rarely did Joseph take anyone one-on-one. Instead, he got easy buckets off of passes from Triche and Jardine. Of course, he was in the right place and finished the plays, but credit the Orange passing game for that stat line.

Syracuse didn’t shoot well from outside but it was good enough. They shot well enough to keep the defense honest. In previous games the Orange pounded the ball inside and rarely took any outside shots because they simply weren’t falling. Last night, they took a lot more jumpers in the first half and that allowed them to penetrate more in the second. In the second half, of the Orange’s 23 shots, five were from outside of 10 feet of the bucket.

I mentioned how this was an average game for the Orange. Well, there was one exception. James Southerland cracked the rotation and played quite well. Fab Melo played just seconds in the second half as he began to stiffen up and CJ Fair was out after spraining his ankle in the first and this allowed Southerland to get into the game. He knocked down a three, converted on an alley-oop and played solid defense in the back line of the zone. This was a far cry from the player who has seemed to have no clue where he’s supposed to be on offense or defense. Maybe those injuries to Melo and Fair could wind up benefiting Syracuse if it means they’ve found one more player to work into the rotation (assuming neither injury is too serious).

This win shouldn’t be discounted. Iona had won seven in a row and have a great chance at winning the MAAC and playing in the tournament come March. Syracuse weathered the storm that was Mike Glover and played well enough to win relatively comfortably. It wasn’t exactly progress, but neither was it a step back.

Robbie Gillies is a senior columnist for The Juice Online. He is also an editor for Real Clear Sports. See more at http://www.realclearsports.com/

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