The Orange were simply too tall for Albany to deal with last night. Syracuse dominated the paint, outrebounding the Great Danes 47-29 and converting on bucket after bucket around the rim. After the game, Coach Boeheim expressed his displeasure with the team’s performance saying, “From the beginning, we weren’t really read to go … Tonight, we didn’t get any better.”
But statistically, it’s tough to look at the production of the 11 players that played at least 14 minutes and find much fault with them. There was C.J. Fair who was just 1-of-4 but added 9 rebounds. Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche combined to go 4-for-11 but added 10 assists and just a couple turnovers. Michael Carter-Williams took some ill-advised shots but he had 4 assists and a couple of blocks. And those were the players who played the worst. That’s what makes this team so dangerous. It’s difficult to find any major weak spots on this deep roster.
It is time to finally start believing in James Southerland? He followed up his 15-point performance Monday night with a career-high 19 last night. Southerland could hardly miss hitting on 8 of his 12 attempts and he contributed on the glass with 5 rebounds. I’m going to continue to be skeptical until he is able to be productive against teams like Virginia Tech in MSG or Florida in the Dome on December 2.
Tied with Southerland at 19 points last night was Kris Joseph. Joseph was much more aggressive than he had been against Manhattan and didn’t settle for the outside shot. He finished 8 of 14 with just 4 of those coming from beyond the arc. It looks like he’s getting more confident coming off the knee surgery he had last March.
The player I’ve been the most impressed with so far this season has been Dion Waiters. He’s quickly earning Boeheim’s trust with smart decisions and confident play. Having lost about 15 pounds from last season he is a step quicker and it definitely shows. He’s knifing through the lane to create easy opportunities around the rim and relying less on his jumper.
The biggest difference from last season is his shot selection. Last season it seemed as if he felt he needed to prove himself offensively and would go one-on-one to make sure he got his shots. This year he’s making the smart decisions and not forcing shots. If he continues to play this type of smart basketball he could start taking minutes away from Brandon Triche or Scoop Jardine. Triche and Jardine are the starters but Waiters has been the most impressive of the bunch. Of course, this is through 3 games of the season but he could cause Boeheim to reassess playing time between the guards.
Baye Keita was an afterthought in a freshmen class that included McDonald’s All-American Fab Melo. But it was Keita who had a better freshman season and contributed from the beginning. This year Rakeem Christmas comes in and starts as a freshman and once again Keita is pushed to the backburner in the thoughts of most analysts and fans. But none of that matters to him as he continues to hustle and make the most out of whatever playing time he receives. It looks like his wrist is fully recovered from last season and it shows in his offensive game. It’s not as if he’s Hakeem Olajuwan in the post but he’s got a good short hook and makes the most of his offensive touches. Last night he finished a perfect 6-for-6 for a career-high of 14 points and added 5 rebounds. Keita remains the unsung hero on this squad.
It looks as if Melo is learning how to control his body out on the court. For the second straight game he took a charge and he’s not swinging to block shots nearly as much as he did last season. It looks like the days of 5 fouls in 5 minutes might be coming to an end for the Brazilian. He, along with the other Cuse big men still made plenty of mistakes resulting in the Danes attempting 33 free throws but much of that credit goes to the aggressiveness of Albany and especially Gerardo Sueno who had a game-high 31 points and attempted 12 free throws.
It wasn’t as crisp a game as Boeheim would’ve liked but the Orange got the job done and aside from a few ill-advised shots looked good on the offensive end. They will face Colgate on Saturday before heading to the Garden to play Virginia Tech in the semifinals of the preseason NIT.