The View From Courtside: Wagner Invited to Syracuse Block Party

Baye Keita was a surprising contributor on offense with a career-high 15 points. - Nate Shron

The first home game of the regular season is in the books as Syracuse shrugged off some early rust to run past Wagner, 88-57. Syracuse improves to 2-0 on the young season. I represented NunesMagician.com on press row for the festivities, and here’s what I witnessed.

The first home game of the regular season is in the books as Syracuse shrugged off some early rust to run past Wagner, 88-57. Syracuse improves to 2-0 on the young season. I represented NunesMagician.com on press row for the festivities, and here’s what I witnessed.

- The game started out very disjointed. There were way too many fumbled balls and missed shots on the part of both teams. SU’s offensive rebounding stood out as a major advantage early on and was one of the main reasons they had the lead.

- One key to SU’s offense will be Michael Carter-Williams’ and Brandon Triche’s ability to rebound at the top of the zone. If they can get to rebounds and loose balls in the middle of the lane they’ll be able to trigger fast breaks on their own, and Triche can be a tough finisher in the open court for someone who is only about 6’4”.

- The Orange challenged seemingly every Wagner layup attempt, finishing with ten blocks and probably twice as many “intimidations” around the rim. The Seahawks were getting very few clean looks at the basket from inside.

- Is there a more versatile player in the Big East than James Southerland? He hits threes, plays three positions, blocks shots, and I even saw him bust out a running floater in the lane today. He should lead the discussion for Big East 6th man of the year, right?

- DaJuan Coleman is eventually going to be a beast in the post, but right now he looks very robotic and easy to defend. He tries too hard to bully his way over or through smaller opponents instead of taking what the defense gives him and making the open shot. Boeheim mentioned this in his post-game press conference, offering the idea that the size and quickness of college players will take some time to get used to.

- Baye Keita scored 15 points, a new career high, mostly on putbacks and layups off of guard penetration. If he can consistently do that it will do wonders for the SU offense, especially on MCW and Triche drives to the rim.

- SU ratcheted up the offensive intensity in the second half, briefly abandoning the outside shot and taking it hard to the rack. Their field goal shooting reflected this, improving from 36% at the half to an even 50% by game’s end. They also did fairly well at the free throw line, going 19-27, or 70.4%.

- The Orange win was their 23rd consecutive at home dating back to two seasons ago. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe their last loss in the Dome was on February 9, 2011 to Georgetown (of all teams), 64-56.

- Attendance was announced at 17,273, a decent number for a nice fall Sunday with many students already on Thanksgiving break and NFL football to contend with.

- After the game, coach Jim Boeheim praised the team’s defense, but called the offense “in and out”. He singled out Trevor Cooney for his six steals (but made a joke about having a relative keeping track of them), and thought James Southerland and Rakeem Christmas both made positive contributions.

- Boeheim said MCW (11 assists) “really played like a point guard today”, and MCW said the big men helped him by making some tough catches. MCW said Boeheim gives him the confidence to go out and be a leader on the floor, despite his limited experience and sophomore status.

Passing Grades:

Keita – He has made major improvements during the offseason, and looks stronger and more confident with the ball in the paint. After the game he said that he has learned to be patient and not rush things once he gets the ball, and he feels like he is in great shape to withstand the rigors of a rough Big East season.

Interior defense – As I mentioned above, the Orange were credited with ten blocks on the afternoon. I wouldn’t have been shocked if they had twice that. Coleman says the defense has worked hard on reacting to the ball on dribble penetration, and that allows them to be in position to get stops in the paint.

Offensive rebounding – This may be a result of their massive height advantage, but SU owned the offensive glass in the first half. It was really what kept them in the game as they struggled to shoot with any sort of efficiency.

Stay After Class:

Outside shooting – The Orange were a paltry 5-19 from three point range, and a couple of those came after the game was decided. MCW says they made more of an effort to get the ball inside in the second half, and that in turn gave them a few more open looks from outside.

Early intensity – I don’t know if SU took Wagner lightly, but Wagner actually had the lead early on and it took a while for the Orange to get it in gear. They won’t be able to do that against Princeton at home on Wednesday, or at Arkansas on November 30.

Jeremy Ryan is a writer/editor for CNYcentral.com in Syracuse. Follow him on Twitter @JeremyRyan44.

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