When it was all over Kris Joseph scored 14 points, which along with Rick Jackson's 14, led the Orange on the night. Not bad for a guy who only scored one point in the first half. Joseph keyed a quick second half burst that helped the Orange pull away from the Northern Iowa Panthers to win the season opener 68-46.
Good thing the Orange woke up in the second half because the first half was fairly brutal in terms of scoring. SU shot 32% in the first half and led by the measly score of 23-20 heading into the locker room.
The Orange eventually proved what a lot of us have been thinking...this bench really is deep. It's way too early to say that Boeheim can go with a ten-man roster. Like most seasons, what looks like a larger roster eventually gets whittled down to around 7-8. I could see Boeheim going as deep as 9 but something tells me that's his limit.
The Panthers just never stood a chance with the kind of shooting night they had. 3-of-16 from three-point range just can't get it done against the zone. Credit SU's "long" defense for forcing the Panthers into holding the ball too long and taking poor shots.
So what was good? How bout Dion Waiters? He proved he can score and, more importantly, he can shoot. If that wasn't clear by what he did in the game, he reminded everyone afterwards:
"I can shoot," Waiters proclaimed in the SU locker room, after the Orange vanquished Northern Iowa 68-46. "They think that I’m drive first. I am a driver. Nobody can stay in front of me if I put my mind to it. But I can shoot. That’s one thing I can do well – shoot the ball. As you can see tonight."
Waiters says it's "humbling" coming off the bench, something he's never done in his life. Let's hope he keeps that in mind...better to play within the system than worry about what "they" think.
Speaking of, I suppose we have to give credit to Waiters for proving Kris Joseph with the kick in the butt he needed to take over right out of the gate in the second half:
Dion Waiters, the brash freshman guard from Philadelphia, had witnessed enough. He approached Joseph in the locker room with some sage words of advice: Don’t analyze, he said. Just react.
"I told him, ‘Just play,’" Waiters said.
The advice resonated with SU’s junior forward. Joseph drained his first shot of the second half, a 3-pointer off a feed from Rick Jackson that seemed to poke the Orange from its slumbering first half of offense. Joseph proceeded to register 11 points in the first seven minutes of the second half.
Kris Joseph does not lack a sense of humor about the situation:
"I’m listening," he said, "to a freshman. That’s pretty funny."
As for the bad, there's two issues that jump out. First, we can't go too far without discussing the fact that Fab Melo and Baye Moussa-Keita both fouled out. Both players got around 18 minutes of playing time out there and only contributed six points and two rebounds. Jim Boeheim doesn't seem too concerned, he's sen plenty of freshmen big men go through this before (Etan Thomas comes to mind). Jimmy did have some good words for Baye, who saw a lot more action that most of us expected.
"I thought Baye gave us some good minutes," Boeheim continued. "I thought he was really active. But the middle of our zone, that guy gets a lot of pressure when they get through. The center gets a lot of work. It’s a tough position to play. It takes time. It’s the key to our defense. Their presence out there is pretty good. (Northern Iowa) didn’t go in there very much and when they did go in there, they didn’t get much around the basket area."
The other area of concern...Scoop Jardine. Scoop and Brandon Reese scored the exact same amount of points...zero. Only difference is Scoop played a helluva lot more than Reese did and shot the ball seven times (0-7), including 3 three-pointers. Scoop is going to have to settle down and find his place on the team quickly. Cousin Dion is clearly making a case for playing time and C.J. Fair is showing some style points as well. Again, it's one game and plenty of SU point guards have had bad games, but it's something to keep an eye on. Scoop did add four assists and a steal...
One other storyline to follow...the trials and tribulations of Mookie Jones. Mookie saw a lot of freshmen come off the bench before him. Given his history, it will be interesting to see how he reacts to that. Especially if he keeps making big three-pointers when given the opportunity, like he did tonight.
Kudos to Jimmy B, who notched win No. 830. That matches him with Mt. St. Mary's head coach Jim Phelan for fifth place on the all-time Division I list.
All in all, it ended up looking a lot more solid at the end than it did in the beginning. The good news is, its early and while Northern Iowa isn't as good as they were last year, they're a decent opponent. They'll get better and this win will look good in a few months. The freshmen can play (when they're not fouling willy-nilly). The bench is deep. Kris Joseph has that takeover mentality we were hoping for. Rick Jackson looks dependable. All we need to do is work out what's going on at the guard spots and figure out the pecking order and we'll be in good shape.
The Orange play again Sunday when Canisius visits for a 3pm tip.