It’s no secret that Syracuse has gotten to their 12-2 record with Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett, and Frank Howard carrying the offensive load. That trio is piling up 50.7 of the Orange’s 71.7 points per game with Battle and Brissett failing to reach double figures in points in a game just once and Howard doing so twice.
Battle’s failure to score in double figures against Toledo was almost certainly caused by a bad fall on his back that ended his night prematurely. One of Howard’s games where he failed to reach double figures was when he had nine points in only 24 minutes in the season opener against Cornell.
While an oft-repeated basketball maxim extols the virtues of a balanced offense, Syracuse’s offensively lopsided squad is proving it. When a fourth player reaches double digits in scoring, SU goes to another level, especially with their defense playing as well as it has this season (Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, which factors in opponent quality, has them as the 16th-best defense in the country).
While not counted on to provide offense on a regular basis, five other Syracuse players have cracked double digits in scoring:
Paschal Chukwu has reached double figures twice with 12 points against Oakland, 15 points against Eastern Michigan. An added bonus is he has snared 11 rebounds in each game.
Marek Dolezaj has reached double figures twice, netting 10 points against Texas Southern and Maryland.
Matthew Moyer, who is the biggest feast or famine player on the team with four scoreless games, has reached double figures four times. The redshirt freshman forward has logged 11 points against Toledo and Virginia Tech, 18 points against Connecticut, and 12 points against Buffalo. Like Chukwu, extra playing time leads to extra benefits for Moyer, as he has at least seven rebounds in each game, including 13 against the Hokies.
Even Bourama Sidibe, who has seen his availability limited by injury, had 11 points against Texas Southern and the no-longer Orange man Geno Thorpe had 12 against Cornell and 13 against Texas Southern.
One thing you may have noticed in about those games is that the Orange won all of them. Certainly, some are lower-quality opponents, but others were needed contributions against better competition.
Dolezaj’s ten points certainly played a part in SU’s 72-70 win over Maryland (Pomeroy’s #30 team). Moyer’s 18 points (and eight board)s in a nine-point win over UConn certainly helped, especially with Howard struggling through his worst game of the year, and his 11-point, 13-rebound effort helped key the Orange victory over Virginia Tech.
The two losses Syracuse has suffered show how much failing to get significant contributions aside from Battle, Brissett, and Howard has hampered the team. Chukwu had seven points against Kansas, but Dolezaj, Moyer, and Sidibe combined for three points in 57 minutes of combined playing time. Dolezaj chipped in nine points in the grindfest against St. Bonaventure, but Chukwu, Moyer, and Sidibe only mustered five points in 56 minutes of action. A 60-57 overtime game, clearly any score could have affected the outcome against the Bonnies.
The key to keeping wins coming as the Orange get further into ACC play is generating offense from a fourth player. Moyer seems to be the most likely source, especially because his entire game seems to feed off him getting involved on the offensive end.
In the six games where he has been scoreless, Moyer has a total of 11 rebounds in 84 minutes of action (5.24 rebounds per 40 minutes). In his four double-figure scoring games, Moyer has 37 rebounds in 123 minutes, good for 12.03 rebounds per 40 minutes.
Why is getting a fourth offensive contributor so important? There is a hint in relatively recent Syracuse basketball history.
While it is still very early, this year’s team is a little reminiscent of the 2015-2016 Orange who snuck into the NCAA Tournament and made a surprise run to the Final Four. That team had a defense ranked in the top-20 by Ken Pomeroy (with strong steal and block rates, just as this year’s team does) and a good-not-great offense.
That 2015-2016 SU team had four players average in double figures in scoring (Tyler Lydon just got in at 10.1 points per game). That team, which finished 23-14 overall, went 18-7 when at least four players reached double figures in scoring, including 3-0 in the NCAA Tournament (and Tyler Roberson was one point shy of making it 4-0 by finishing with nine points against Gonzaga).
So, with defense and rebounding as the clear calling cards for this year’s Syracuse team, a little more help on offense could lead the way to big things.