Shut it down.
This was the theme for Syracuse basketball’s 2009-2010 season, one of the best seasons in program history. SU had a star studded line up with future NBA players Arize Onuaku, Wes Johnson, Andy Rautins and Kris Joseph.
That team defeated Villanova in front of a record breaking crowd of 34,616 and were ranked No. 1 in the nation with a 28-2 record.
It’s too early to be drawing comparisons to the 2010 season, but the 2014-15 Syracuse team definitely shut it down in the second half last night at the Carrier Dome in its 84-35 exhibition win over Adrian.
The SU zone stymied Adrian’s offense attack, holding the Bulldogs to 13 for 48 shooting from the field and 5 for 23 from downtown. SU’s zone also forced 29 turnovers.
The Syracuse defense got even better in the second half. The Bulldogs could only muster 4 for 22 shooting from the field and 1 for 9 shooting from the 3-point line. Adrian was held scoreless the entire second half up until 7:06 left in the game.
“We had great depth tonight as a team,” said Syracuse guard Michael Gbinije, who finished with 10 points. “We subbed a lot to keep our legs fresh and we moved around on defense. We rebounded the ball well and forced them to contest shots.”
Then again, the Orange wasn’t exactly shooting the lights out.
Syracuse started off weak, shooting 12-for-41 in the first half. The Orange ended the game 28-for-70, but also went 20-29 from the line and feasted inside on a shorter Bulldog team, showing off its versatility.
“They’re a small team so they don’t have an advantage inside,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “We had more movement defensively and were more active with our hands.”
Chris McCullough led Syracuse with 13 points, but could not hit shots, going 2-11 from the field. Still, McCullough dominated the game in other ways with 16 rebounds (nine offensive) while going 9-9 on free throws.
Fellow freshman Kaleb Joseph played a quiet first half, but found more opportunities to score in the second half, finishing with nine points and four assists. Sophomores BJ Johnson (7 points) and Tyler Roberson (9) also began to find rhythms after struggling against Carleton.
“It’s a learning experience for the young players and these games are important,” Boeheim said. “B.J. and Tyler were both looking more relaxed and it’s good for their confidence.”
It was also a confidence booster for Gbinije, who played starters minutes despite coming off the bench and stuffed the stat sheet. He scored 10 points, three rebounds and six assists from three different positions.
“Coming in I thought I was only going to play guard,” Gbinije said. “It feels a lot better to have a bigger role and impact on the team. Starting or not starting, as long long as I’m playing in the game and contributing to a win I’m happy.”
Syracuse’s regular season starts against Kennesaw State on Friday. Is Boeheim and his team ready for Friday night’s season opener?
“You’ll see,” Boeheim said.