It is not a good idea to make a bunch of sweeping judgments off three games of basketball. However, one trend has appeared early with the Syracuse Orange: Freshman point guard Judah Mintz has turned into a bellwether for the team’s performance in three games over the first two weeks of the season.
Mintz has played well to start the season, using his ability to penetrate into the paint to create scoring opportunities and converting those chances into points. Mintz is tied with backcourt mate Joe Girard III atop the squad with an 18.0 points per game mark and the freshman has achieved that level by shooting 57.9 percent from the floor. That high mark includes converting over 60 percent of his shots inside the three-point arc.
Through SU’s first three games, Mintz’s play has directly affected the team’s output, both in success and the lack of same. Here are the half-by-half breakdowns of Mintz’s play and Syracuse’s point differential thus far:
- Lehigh first half – 4-of-6 field goals, two assists, one turnover, ten points, SU +18
- Lehigh second half – 2-of-3 field goals, one assist, two turnovers, six points, SU +0
- Colgate first half – 2-of-7 field goals, zero assists, one turnover, six points, SU -14
- Colgate second half – 6-of-9 field goals, two assists, one turnover, 14 points, SU +2
- Northeastern first half – 5-of-9 field goals, three assists, zero turnovers, 11 points, SU +14
- Northeastern second half – 3-of-4 field goals, two assists, zero turnovers, six points, SU +14
The simplest summation of this breakdown? When Mintz plays well and sets up his teammates as well as scores, the Orange flourish, and when he doesn’t, look out.
When SU has outscored their opponents by double figures in a half of play, Mintz shoots 63.2 percent (12-of-19) and has seven assists and one turnover. When the Orange have struggled, he is shooting 52.6 percent (10-of-19) with three assists and four turnovers. Most of that shooting success has come in two second halves where the margin was never in single digits.
Mintz’s first half against Colgate is clearly his worst effort to date. While he drove to create open looks, he failed to convert those shots. He also did not use his penetration skills to set up his teammates.
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The result? SU got blown out in that first half to the point where they were never able to threaten the lead in the second half and Jim Boeheim described the team’s offense as “horrendous” in the postgame press conference. No matter how the rest of the team plays, that adjective as a descriptor of the offense points back to the point guard in a significant way.
In that Colgate game, Mintz made his first shot on the opening possession of the night. After that, no points until the first of two free throws with the Orange down eight points. His next made field goal was a three-pointer that ended an 11-2 Colgate run and pulled Syracuse within 12. And, through all that time, no assists.
Without their point guard looking to create opportunities for his teammates, the SU offense stagnated and turned into multiple players bypassing team offense concepts in lieu of looking for their own shots. It was reminiscent of former Syracuse player Jalen Carey, who got some immediate playing time as a freshman in the 2018-2019 season while Frank Howard was recovering from injury.
After coming off the bench the first two games, Carey started against Connecticut at Madison Square Garden in the 2K Classic. Carey was dynamic with the ball in his first extended action, pouring in a game-high 26 points in an 83-76 loss. Of course, it was also at the expense of his teammates, as Carey had zero assists and six turnovers.
Howard returned to play a couple games later and Carey’s playing time evaporated almost entirely by the time conference play started, as he saw just 79 minutes on the floor in ACC and postseason play, failing to get off the bench in nine games.
That will not be the case with Mintz, though, as he has already proven to be a valuable, almost essential player. But, when the schedule gets tougher and getting in to the paint will not come as easy, such as in the Empire Classic and next week against Illinois and Notre Dame, will he be able to make both facets of his game come together to keep the Orange offense moving?