Syracuse took the floor for the first time since finishing 16-17 in the 2021-22 season, and easily defeated the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, 90-72, in their first matchup since 2015.
Here are the main takeaways from the win.
1. Syracuse starts the season playing man defense
In October, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim told the media the Orange would play some man-to-man defense throughout the year. It was a departure from SU’s vaunted 2-3 zone, which Boeheim has played exclusively since the 2009-10 season. Boeheim didn’t shy away from it, deploying it right away after the game’s opening tip and also to start the second half. Other than minor switching errors on screens during certain plays, Syracuse looked well adjusted to their new style of defense before settling back into zone. The Orange limited Lehigh to 42.9 percent shooting, though SU did struggle to defend the perimeter, allowing 8-21 shooting from beyond the arc.
2. Boeheim empties his bench
Syracuse used 12 players in the game, with nine getting quality time with double digit minutes. With SU playing a mid-major, it allowed Boeheim to continue to tinker and experiment with his rotation. “We did some good things and we had a chance to play everybody,” Boeheim said. “If we only play 6 guys it might have been a different score but we got a good look at guys. We have to get better on defense and that is going to take some time, but we build on this.”
3. Judah Mintz was strong in Syracuse debut
Judah Mintz, Syracuse’s highest ranked recruit in the 2022 class, didn’t disappoint in his debut. He finished the night with 16 points, shooting 67 percent from the field and added three assists. Mintz didn’t attempt a 3-pointer all night, opting to use his quickness and athleticism to get to the basket and pull up for easy mid range jumpshots. The Lehigh defense struggled all night to control the shifty guard. “Judah was really good,” Boeheim said. “He was in control. Got in the lane, and made some really good plays. But we have a lot of work to do and that’s pretty normal with freshman.”
4. Jesse Edwards dominates in his return
After a wrist injury in February sidelined center Jesse Edwards for the remainder of the season, the senior picked up where he left off. On opening night, Edwards showed off a little of everything. With 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks, the center dominated the smaller Mountain Hawks, and the Orange as a team outrebounded the Mountain Hawks 39-26. “All that matters is the win,” Edwards said. “But to have a good personal game like that feels good. I’ve been able to use the moves I have been working on pretty nicely.”
5. Symir Torrence sparks Syracuse
Symir Torrence played only 22 minutes, but he made the most of it. The reserve guard scored 10 points and dished out six assists in the opener, and also showed an improved outside shot, stepping into a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired. He shot just 13.9 percent from distance last year, but appeared confident in his shot, and his game overall. “My confidence is sky-high right now,” he said.