Syracuse defeated Indiana (PA) 86-68 in its exhibition opener. Here are five takeaways from the game.
1. Benny Williams looked comfortable
It was a frustrating freshman campaign for the former five-star recruit, as Williams averaged just 1.9 ppg and 1.4 rpg last year. But in his first action since suffering a season-ending injury in February, Williams looked poised to take a sophomore leap. Williams played 30 minutes and finished with 15 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. His shot looked significantly improved as well, as he hit his only 3-point attempt of the game, and all four free throws.
2. Judah Mintz has a natural feeling for the game
Mintz started at point guard, and looked very comfortable running the offense, especially in the second half. He showed his athleticism and quickness, and get into the lane almost at will. He finished with 14 points, though he only had one assist and three turnovers. His backup, Symir Torrence, played just 10 minutes. Expect Mintz to be a huge contributor moving forward.
3. Quadir Copeland impressed
While Mintz and Torrence seemed to have the point guard minutes locked up, Copeland will likely see time as a reserve wing. He played key minutes in the second half, and though the stat sheet only shows five points and two assists, Copeland kept the ball moving and played with high energy on both ends of the court.
4. The best lineup was…
… a combination of Mintz, Joe Girard, Copeland, Williams and Jesse Edwards. The group played unselfishly, has the length and athleticism to properly execute in the 2-3 zone, and showed good chemistry. While Chris Bell started and Justin Taylor played 18 minutes, Copeland appeared to be the best fit for what Syracuse needed. This lineup was the one that drove the decisive 16-0 run that put SU ahead for good.
5. Backup center remains a mystery
Edwards played 24 minutes, and behind him was a rotating cast of reserve big men. John Bol Ajak (4 minutes), Peter Carey (8), Mounir Hima (6) and Maliq Brown (8 minutes – though he also appeared at wing) all saw action at center. Of note, Carey was the first player off the bench to replace Edwards. None really separated themselves in their limited stints, so it’s likely still a fluid situation of who will ultimately be the top reserve center in the rotation.