After yet another second half rally Saturday night catapulted SU to its third win of the season, the upcoming trip to the Bahamas may help shape the Orange’s course for the remainder of the season.
Following his squad’s 66-55 victory over Elon University from the Colonial Athletic Alliance, Coach Jim Boeheim intends on working his guys into a team that will compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference this year.
The first-ever matchup between the Orange and the Phoenix from Elon, North Carolina was a mainland game in the Battle 4 Atlantis. SU will play Charlotte on Wednesday afternoon in the first day on the Paradise Island tournament. Elon defeated Charlotte Nov. 13.
“The tournament will help us,” Boeheim reasoned. “We’re getting away from home and the new surroundings will kind of help us a little bit.”
The Orange, through the highs and lows against Elon, was led by a strong performance by Tyler Roberson, who had 20 points and 16 rebounds. Michael Gbinije, who picked up three fouls in the game’s first 12 minutes, stayed on the court only six minutes. He finished with 16 points and played the entire second half.
While Gbinije spent the majority of the first half on the bench and starting center DaJuan Coleman playing sparingly, Boeheim tinkered with different lineups. Tyler Lydon was the beneficiary of Coleman’s ineffectiveness by manning the middle. He grabbed seven defensive rebounds, five in the first half, to highlight his stat sheet.
Malachi Richardson, the freshman guard who netted 14 points in each of the wins over Lehigh and St. Bonaventure, had 13 points with 10 coming from the charity stripe.
At one stretch in the game’s first seven minutes, Boeheim shuttered in guards Kaleb Joseph and Franklin Howard along with big man Chinonso Obokoh to join Roberson and Lydon on the floor.
The chemistry experiment didn’t last long. Gbinije, Richardson, Coleman and Roberson all made their way back onto the court for short stints.
“Mike is way too important for us. He cannot get into foul trouble,” Boeheim said. “We need to have him on the court because it makes us a different team.”
He wasn’t thrilled with the team’s ball handling, defensive adjustments and offensive output.
“Right now five guys are contributing but we can’t go very far with that,” Boeheim said. “Offensively, we’re going to have to play better to have any success this year.”
Gbinije, the de facto point guard who transferred from Duke two years ago, agreed with his coach that playing well on Paradise Island is the team’s first priority.
“A win is a win and we’ll take it,” Gbinije offered afterwards. “We just have to move forward.”
The goal is to improve each game and the team is fortunate the upcoming trip is part of the early season schedule.
“We want to come out and play our game and get some wins,” Gbinije said, “and have some fun in the process.”
The coach warned the competitive pre-ACC slate doesn’t feature any “easy” victories for his inexperienced club.
Along with Charlotte, the field in Atlantis includes Gonzaga, UConn, Michigan, Washington, Texas, and Texas A&M.
“There are no easy games anymore,” Boeheim said. “We’re doing some foolish things and we can’t make those mistakes.”
Then, he added, “It’s early. It’s very early.”
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