Syracuse basketball’s rotation the last few years has been an elite group of starters with one or two players contributing off the bench.
Last year’s team is a perfect example. Michael Gbinije, Trevor Cooney and Malachi Richardson played most of the game. Tyler Roberson, Tyler Lydon and DaJuan Coleman rotated throughout the game. Frank Howard played occasionally, but was on a very short leash.
Syracuse usually only plays six or seven players, and that’s just the way head coach Jim Boeheim likes to play his rotation.
“It’s easy to coach when you have six guys, you play them,” Boeheim said following Saturday’s 99-77 romp of Boston University.
This version of the Orange is very different.
Nine players were on the court for at least nine minutes in the win over Boston University. Coleman, who started the game at center, was the one who played just nine minutes. Boeheim went to his bench early and often, having the luxury of playing the hot hand.
“We are still trying to fit everyone together, it’s going to take a long time,” Boeheim said. “It is hard to get everyone in.”
The hot hands against BU were freshman forward Taurean Thompson and graduate transfer point guard John Gillon. The two combined for 45 points off the bench and provided the spark Syracuse needed to pull away.
“John saved the game in the first half,” Boeheim said.
Gillon splashed all four of his 3-point attempts before intermission and added a pair from the charity stripe, giving him 14 to lead all scorers at halftime. He finished the game with 23 as well as four assists while not committing a turnover.
“Everything started clicking,” Gillon said.
Not to be outdone, Thompson also had a breakout game, tallying 22 points in just 19 minutes while adding seven boards, including four on the offensive glass. He chipped in two blocks on the defensive side as well.
“Taurean is getting better offensively every day in practice,” Boeheim said. “He still has some work to do on the defensive end.”
While both of these players are working their way into Boeheim’s rotation, it all depends on the situation and who has the hot hand.
“That lineup was really good against zone,” said Boeheim of his choice to play both Gillon and Thompson for extended minutes. “I’m going to play who I think the best players are.”
After being a starter for all of last year at Colorado State, Gillon recognizes the challenge in coming off the bench.
“It’s tough,” Gillon said. “I’m not going to say it’s not. I’m trying to make the best of it.”