The Orange played a fine game last night. They went about their business and methodically took care of a decent team in Bucknell. The team’s effort on defense seemed to be as lacking as the crowd attendance (officially just over 17,000 but actually much less) but the offense put together another efficient performance and SU improves to 12-0 with one game left before the beginning of Big East play.
SU’s size was a major factor early in this contest. The first 9 points were all in the paint (if you include a foul in the paint that resulted in a free throw) and on the defensive end Bucknell shot just 8-of-22 in the first half partially due to a lot of missed shots around the rim due to pressure from the bigs. Rakeem Christmas got a boost of confidence by scoring the team’s first 7 points finishing with a career-high 10 points and adding 5 rebounds and a couple blocks.
But it wasn’t all positive for the defense. The rotation from the guards was a step slower than usual and allowed for far too many good attempts around the foul line and the 3-point line. Bucknell had 6 very good looks from deep in the first half and connected on just one of them. They came into the game averaging over 13 made 3-pointers a game but finished just 7-for-22 last night. Syracuse did force a few deep shots but most of that can be chalked up to a poor shooting night from the Bison. If they have an average night from beyond the arc this could’ve been a very different game.
But had Bucknell made a few more of those shots perhaps Michael Carter-Williams wouldn’t have played 22 minutes. The freshman was in for most of the 2nd half while Dion Waiters played just 10 minutes in this game. Waiters wasn’t happy with his lack of playing time but it was the right move by Boeheim. With the game never in doubt, Boeheim was able to allow MCW to get some playing time and work through his issues. He did not look like he’s ready for Big East competition yet. He overcommitted far too often and wasn’t able to determine the biggest threat in the zone. He has the skillset to be an unbelievable player but based on last night it’s doubtful he’s ready to play a significant part for this team (it’s even more doubtful Boeheim will get him much of a chance).
Syracuse probably could have won this game by 30 if that was the goal. But instead it was used a stepping stone to getting better. They pressed with varying results and gave Rakeem and MCW more playing time. With so many quality players it’s difficult to spread out the playing time and give those that get less time much of a chance. The Orange should have one more chance to tinker with things as they face Tulsa on Thursday before they embark on the Big East portion of their schedule.
-James Southerland set a career-high* by dribbling 3 times consecutively and even went behind his back on the 2nd dribble (*an unofficial record…one only I’m keeping.)
-Can someone make a Rak bighead? I mean, literally have a picture of a rock. You can even have it dueling and crushing a pair of scissors.