Baye Keita made the most of his 14 minutes on Tuesday night’s 98-74 win over Albany. The sophomore forward scored a career-high 14 points and added five rebounds and two blocks as Syracuse advanced to the semifinals of the Dicks Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off.
“Baye was really good,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said to reporters following the game. “He was just active and moving.”
Keita was part of a dominant interior Syracuse attack that outrebounded Albany 47-29 and outscored the Great Danes 60-20 in the paint.
“I was definitely on my game tonight,” Keita said. “I was aggressive on the offensive glass.”
Was he ever.
All five of Keita’s rebounds were on the offensive end, and three of them resulted in put-backs for the sophomore center. Keita did not miss a shot all night and ended up 6-for-6 from the field.
There’s a fairly easy explanation for Keita’s success—he had the use of both of his hands.
For much of last season, Keita played with a nagging wrist injury that required him to tape his hand before each game. Often times, Keita would have trouble with simple basketball moves like catching passes.
Keita had surgery in the offseason, but still continued to tape his hand in SU’s two exhibition games as well as Syracuse’s home opener against Fordham.
But for the past two games, Keita has not taped his hand, and it’s paid huge dividends. With the use of both of his hands, Keita has become more than just a defensive presence.
“I wasn’t just going for the blocks tonight,” Keita said. “We didn’t have to worry about that as much tonight.”