Syracuse may play small to win big.
The Orange will travel to the Prudential Center for its first true road game of the season to face Seton Hall (7-8, 1-2 Big East). The Pirates are coming off back-to-back losses to No. 25 Cincinnati (70-53) and No. 23 Louisville (73-54).
It will face Syracuse (15-0, 2-0), which may have found its most potent lineup in Saturday’s impressive 70-58 win over No. 15 Notre Dame.
With the score tied at 44 midway through the second half, SU head coach Jim Boeheim moved starting power forward Rick Jackson to the center position and inserted sophomore James Southerland into the lineup. He joined wing Kris Joseph and guards Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters.
“I thought the game turned on that,” Boeheim said.
It was a fair assessment.
After the lineup change, SU went on a 29-7 run that broke open the game.
Part of the reason for the lineup’s success was because SU matched up better against Notre Dame’s perimeter shooters. Rather than having Jackson chase shooters out on the perimeter, the senior patrolled the paint, collecting a career-high six blocks.
That allowed the Orange to pester the Irish on the perimeter as SU held the Irish to just 42 percent from the field. Prior to the game, the Irish was the second best team in the country in shooting at 52 percent a game.
That doesn’t bode well for Seton Hall, who already has trouble scoring. The Pirates are 291st in the NCAA in field goal percentage, shooting just 40.4 percent, and 214th in scoring, at 67.9 points per game.
“Playing good defense has been our thing,” Joseph said. “Playing good defense is what we want to do to win games. We know some nights our offense will not be there.”
But last Saturday, offense was not a problem thanks to the smaller lineup.
“Rick controlled the middle,” Jardine said. “That allowed us to get out in the open court. I’ve said this before, but when we get out in the open court, I don’t think anyone can beat us.”
Wesley Cheng is the Editor in Chief for The Juice Online.