Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim consistently repeated two things after the Orange’s 76-68 preseason win over Carleton on Sunday afternoon.
“It was a valuable game.” “It was a great learning experience.”
While Boeheim was referring the team as a whole, it definitely could’ve been used to specifically describe freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph. The freshman point guard, playing in his first game in a Syracuse uniform led SU in scoring, finishing with 19 points and 4 assists.
Syracuse started slow on offense, and quickly fell behind by 14 points. But Joseph asserted himself early, and gave SU the spark it needed to stay within reach.
“We were struggling big time in the first half and could not score,” Boeheim said. “He was pretty much our only offense. He got beat a lot on defense but that is typical for a freshman. He made a couple nice plays down the stretch and overall you have to be happy with what he did today.”
Joseph had to sit a large part of the second half with cramps, but played well against a team that has won 10 of the last 12 national championships in Canada.
He needed to, with Syracuse’s two most experience returning players struggling. While senior center Rakeem Christmas finished with 13 points, he went scoreless in the first half. Meanwhile, Joseph’s backcourt mate, Trevor Cooney, went 0-4 from the field and 0-6 from downtown.
“As a point guard it is your job to be aggressive,” Joseph said. “That’s what coach told me to do so I had to get in the lane and make plays.”
The game was reminiscent of SU’s matchup with Carleton in 2013, when the Orange overcame a 15-point defect and needed to rally to force overtime. SU would go on to win that game, 69-65.
But this time, the Orange didn’t sweat out the final minutes with Joseph leading the way.
“We came out sluggish,” Joseph said. “It might have been the nerves and everyone got lost in the moment. We can’t afford to come out slow like that and settle for jump shots. Being aggressive early as a team is important and to be in attack mode the whole time.”
And how did Joseph grade his performance on the night?
“That’s the coach’s job,” he said, grinning.