In loss to Cal, Syracuse basketball’s inexperience shows

Cal had plenty to be excited about on Thursday
Cal had plenty to be excited about on Thursday

NEW YORK — There was a universal theme that peppered Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim’s post-game press conference following Syracuse’s dreadful 73-59 loss to California in the semifinals of the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden.

“It’s going to take time,” Boeheim repeatedly said.

Boeheim first used the phrase to describe freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph, who looked very much his age. He finished with 13 points and four assists, but struggled shooting the ball in the first half when SU fell behind by double digits.

“That’s is a fairly normal freshman point guard coming to the Garden the first time,” Boeheim said. “It’s going to be a difficult experience and I think that showed tonight. It’s going to take a while for where we need him to be.”

Joseph, who also finished with three turnovers, is perhaps the victim of unrealistic expectations set by his predecessor, Tyler Ennis. Ennis, now in the Phoenix Suns organization, displayed exceptional patience and poise, especially for someone of his experience, as Syracuse got off to the best start in school history.

» Related: Syracuse needs more from its young starters

“”We got spoiled last year. We had an unusual freshman point guard,” Boeheim said. “They come around, once in a coach’s career that you can get a freshman that can play with that understanding of the game. Kaleb is a very good freshman point guard, very talented, but he’s got a lot to learn about the game.”

The same can be said about Boeheim’s other freshman starter, Chris McCullough.

The spindly forward statistically had another solid showing, finishing with 12 points and six rebounds, but McCullough was consistently muscled around in the paint. McCullough only had three rebounds on the defensive end, and only took four free throws (hitting one).

With senior center Rakeem Christmas in foul trouble throughout the night, McCullough stepped in and swatted four shots, but he also committed four fouls.

“He’s a pretty good player, (but) he weights 210 pounds,” Boeheim said. “The guys he plays are going to be physical with him. Once we get into our league, it’s going to be more so.”

What did Boeheim follow that statement up with?

“It’s going to take time.”

Both of Syracuse’s freshmen seemingly have limitless potential, but the only way to tap into that potential will be time and practice.

“We felt coming into this year, we had lost a lot in the last two years,” Boeheim said. “The signs were there that we have work to do, quite a lot of work to do, and we’re just going to have to come back tomorrow and play a little harder, a little better. We’re going to have to spend the month of December getting better.”

It won’t happen overnight. And it certainly won’t happen when Syracuse faces Iowa in the consolation game at 5 p.m. on Friday.

“There’s nothing I can do between now and 5 o’clock tomorrow,” Boeheim said. “Merlin couldn’t do anything by 5 o’clock tomorrow night.”

Said Boeheim: “It takes time. That’s all it takes. Practice, and time.”

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About Wes Cheng 2907 Articles
Wes has worked for covering the New York Knicks, as well as for covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also been a contributing writer for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), for SportsNet New York (SNY) as a news desk writer covering all of New York professional sports, and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005 with a degree in journalism. Contact him at wes[at]