Saturday night, Syracuse routed Rider, 87-52, for their third straight victory to start the year at 3-0. Here are the main takeaways from the win:
Syracuse is going to ride or die by the three
Out of their 87 points against Rider, only 20 were scored in the paint. Syracuse started hot from beyond the arc, making 12 3-pointers in the first half, in large part to Alan Griffin who finished 4-6 from deep and 23 points.
Though the Orange cooled off in the second half, they still shot 15-30 from downtown. Even without Buddy Boeheim, the Orange still managed to tie the team record for made 3s in a game.
With the addition of Griffin, who was known primarily for his perimeter shooting coming into Syracuse, there is no doubt this is an elite group of shooters. Griffin, Boeheim, and Joe Girard can all get hot quick from 3, and freshmen Kadary Richmond and Woody Newton are capable shooters, as well.
When Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim was asked if this was a historic shooting team for him he deferred.
“We will have to wait and see,” Boeheim said. “I like waiting till the end of the year to determine that.”
The zone is already stronger than last year
After Syracuse gave up 84 points to Bryant in the home opener, the 2-3 defense became a concern. Still, it’s early in the season, and the Orange was forced to sit out two weeks prior to the opener after Jim Boeheim tested positive for the coronavirus.
Since its shaky opener, Syracuse has held Niagara (45 points) and Rider (52) in check, and its experience has started to show. Girard, Marek Dolezaj, Quincy Guerrier, all played extended minutes last year and freshman Woody Newton and Kadary Richmond look comfortable in the zone. Griffin, not necessarily known for his defense at Illinois, has two steals and two blocks through three games.
Yes, Syracuse has played three mid-major teams to start the year, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t tell when the zone is moving well.
Against tough ACC teams, this zone has the potential to do better than last year thanks to returning experience and the addition of length up top.
Joe Girard III breaks his slump when he needed it most
Joe Girard needed to get back into his rhythm. He struggled against both Bryant and Niagara, combining for 5-25 shooting and six turnovers.
Saturday night he flipped the switch. He finished with 21 points on 6-13 shooting and 6-12 from beyond the arc, and added five assists and two blocks.
”Even people from back home kind of got on my butt,” Girard said. “They pretty much told me I am representing a lot more people than just myself and I have to go out there and put forth max effort.”