A quick take on Syracuse’s 78-53 win over Fordham:
Syracuse jumped out to an early lead behind stifling defense, anchored in the middle by 7-foot sophomore Fab Melo, who recorded 4 blocks by the break. Fordham got absolutely nothing going in the first half, shooting just 7-27 (25.9 percent), mostly on outside jump shots. On the offensive end, SU got off to a slow start, but with 2:55 left in the first half the Orange had opened up a 30-12 lead behind a barrage of 3-pointers. But Fordham closed the half out on a 7-2 run, and SU’s lead was cut to 32-19.
The Orange came out strong in the second, pushing the lead to 54-36 with just under ten minutes remaining. They never looked back, and the defense continued to smother for the duration. The Orange tallied seven blocks and 11 steals, and Fordham finished the game shooting a paltry 34.6 percent.
*Syracuse looked great inside. Melo had 4 blocks by halftime as well as a steal, and played excellent one-on-one post defense. Baye Moussa Keita added a stuff of his own, and would have recorded another on a spectacular chasedown of Devon McMillan that was ruled a foul. If Melo and Keita can keep this up, the Orange defense has a chance to be something special this year.
*Building off his stellar preseason play, Melo had a great all-around game. Though he only scored four points, he had four blocks, four rebounds and two assists. One of those assists came early in the second half when he fed Rakeem Christmas for a dunk off of a beautiful touch pass. Melo also drew a charge off of Chris Gaston. He had some trouble scoring in the post, however, and his conditioning seemed to be an issue. Melo looked gassed and called for a sub near the end of the first half, and looked tired from the start of the second. Still, good things happened whenever he was on the court, and if he was tired, it was because he was working his tail off. Let’s see how he holds up in the trenches of the Big East, though.
*It was a rough day offensively for the Orange’s starting backcourt. Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche combined to score 16 points on just 6-of-17 shooting. Triche once again looked hesitant at times, but he did get his midrange game going a bit, and he helped in other areas, pulling down seven rebounds. Scoop was Scoop–he came out gunning but started looking to distribute more as the game went on. He made some ill-advised passes that led to two recorded turnovers (plus a third that was charged to Christmas) and didn’t shoot the ball particularly well.
*Michael Carter-Williams fought off early jitters to have a solid game. After sailing a skip pass into the fourth row, he settled down and ran the offense well. He had a couple of nice feeds to Melo early on and was active at the top of the zone. He struggled a bit in the second half, getting his pocket picked at one point, but he also broke Bryan Smith’s ankles late in the game on a filthy crossover. All in all it was a good start for the freshman.
*Kris Joseph quietly led the Orange with 16 points on 50 percent shooting. He also hauled in five rebounds, and usually looked like the best player on the court even as he was letting his teammates step up.
*Christmas worked hard on the boards and on defense, showing the kind of interior presence he can be and displaying great hustle all around. He showed flashes of an offensive game, too, earning a 3-point play in the second half off of a nice spin move in the post.
*This was a team effort by the Orange. Of the ten players who saw the floor before garbage time, only Keita failed to score. Dion Waiters, CJ Fair, and James Southerland all looked good at both ends. Waiters scored 14 points on efficient 6-for-9 shooting. Fair also had a nice steal in the open court to prevent a layup.
*Shaquille O’Neal appeared at halftime to promote an anti-binge drinking campaign he’s involved in called “The Stupid Drink.” He only addressed the crowd briefly, but won over the Orange faithful with a heartfelt “Georgetown sucks!” He also picked up SU’s diminutive Chancellor, Nancy Cantor and held her above his head.