Syracuse plays at No. 16 Illinois in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. (TV: ESPN). Here are five things to watch for in the game.
Can Joe Girard snap out of it?
Joe Girard has been wildly inconsistent this season. After scoring a career-high 31 points in a win against Richmond, Girard has gone ice cold in the two games since. Against St. John’s and Bryant, Girard has shot a combined 2-22, averaging 4.5 ppg in those two losses. The Orange simply cannot afford to have its best shooter firing up 10+ shots a game if he’s not going to be connecting.
What effects will Judah Mintz’s ejection have?
For those of you who missed it, Syracuse’s starting point guard, Judah Mintz, was ejected in the first half of Saturday’s game against Bryant after Mintz got into a slapping altercation with Doug Edert. The Orange certainly missed his presence in a one-point loss, as Girard needed to play extended minutes at point guard, a position he’s never looked comfortable in during his first three seasons at SU. Mintz will be back in the lineup, but will the ejection change his style of play?
Will Jim Boeheim use Justin Taylor more?
With Mintz ejected and Girard firing bricks, Justin Taylor filled in and scored a career-high 25 points. Taylor showed why he’s drawn comparisons to Buddy Boeheim, hitting 3 of 6 from downtown, and getting to the line 13 times. If Girard continues to be cold, it would make plenty of sense for Jim Boeheim to call on Taylor to provide a spark.
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Can Jesse Edwards stay out of foul trouble?
Jesse Edwards showed how valuable he was against Bryant. He pulled down a career-high 21 boards to go with 12 points and two blocks before fouling it. Boeheim made it a point to say Edwards’ absence on the game’s final possession likely caused the loss, as Edwards would’ve been in a better position to block what eventually turned out to be the game-winner for Bryant. If Syracuse is to have a chance, Edwards needs to be more careful about his fouls.
Can Syracuse pick up a signature non-conference win?
The No. 16 Fighting Illini already has an impressive win over No. 8 UCLA already on its resume, and their lone loss was to No. 16 Virginia. The Orange would be wise to keep an eye on guard Terrence Shannon Jr., who is averaging 20.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg and 3.8 apg. With losses to two mid-majors already blemishing SU’s resume, a win against a ranked opponent would go a long way to making some amends. Still, the ESPN BPI only gives the Orange a 13.4 percent chance of winning.
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