For the 165th time in their 111 year ‘rivalry’ the Syracuse Orange and Colgate Raiders matched up on the hardwood, and for seemingly the 165th time the Orange came away with an easy win. Actually, it was only SU’s 47th consecutive victory over Colgate, this time 87-51, but it seems like many more than that.
James Southerland led the Orange with 18 points, Michael Carter-Williams dished out a personal best 13 assists, and DaJuan Coleman chipped in a career high 12 points and 7 rebounds in the win, a record-setting 25th straight in the Carrier Dome dating back to February 2011. They also notched their 46th consecutive nonconference win at home. I was on press row for the proceedings, and here’s what I witnessed:
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In just a handful of early games this season, Michael Carter-Williams is proving that he has the talent to back up the flashes of potential we saw from him in limited action last season. Against Colgate he had 10 assist at halftime, including assisting on every one of the Orange’s first 9 field goals. There were even murmurs that Sherman Douglas’s single-game record of 22 assists was in danger. As the Orange pulled away MCW’s assist pace slacked off, but he still tallied a career-high 13 to go with his 8 points, 4 steals, and 6 rebounds. Not a bad day for a guy who couldn’t get steady playing time just one year ago. I’d venture to say that Carter-Williams is the Orange’s most realistic shot at a triple double in years, and as far as I can tell they haven’t had once since guard Allen Griffin pulled off the feat vs. Pittsburgh in February 2001.
James has settled into the Dion Waiters role as both the team’s sparkplug off of the bench and perhaps its most explosive scorer. In the past we saw glimpses of his feathery shooting touch, but he has definitely added little wrinkles to his arsenal including finishing a couple of alley-oop dunks Sunday - on passes from MCW - and a sneaky post-up game against smaller forwards. Southerland check in Sunday with another fine effort, scoring 18 points on 7-12 shooting (4-9 from three) in 23 minutes, which is more playing time than three of the starters.
Colgate came into the game shooting a blistering 46% from 3-point range on the season. Now I know that early-season statistics can be misleading, but the Raiders had already played six games against decent competition such as Illinois and Marquette. After allowing a few early threes (more on that later), the Orange zone tightened up and held Colgate to just 9-28 (32%) from deep for the game.
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Early Perimeter Defense:
As good as the Orange defense was for most of the game, they certainly didn’t start off playing well. Colgate came out of the gate firing, connecting on three early 3-pointers to keep them close in the first half. The Orange were able to overcome this early outburst and eventually run away with the win, but we have seen in the past that a team like Louisville or Notre Dame can get hot from outside and ride a barrage of jump shots to victory if left uncontained.
As well as most of the roster is playing right now, Trevor Cooney’s production stands out as one of the only clouds in an otherwise blue sky. He is currently just 3-19 on the season, including 2-15 from 3-point range, his specialty. He appears to me to be rushing his shots, launching many of his jumpers off balance and out of rhythm. On Sunday he was particularly cold, hitting just 1-8 from the floor and a painful 0-7 from behind the arc. Hopefully this is a case of working out the kinks after seeing no game action last year, but if this slump continues Boeheim may be forced to squeeze more minutes out of Triche and MCW or turn to Southerland as his third guard.
Final Grade: A-
It’s tough to find too many faults with a team that won by 36 points. SU outplayed Colgate in nearly every facet of the game, as was to be expected. The real story would’ve been if they hadn’t. If you excuse the odd weather conditions in San Diego, the Orange’s first real test of the season will come this Friday when they travel to Arkansas as part of the SEC-Big East Challenge. The Razorbacks are known to employ a guard-oriented, up-tempo, pressing and trapping style, which could present a serious challenge to SU’s limited guard depth and give us an honest assessment of MCW’s newfound playmaking and ballhandling skills.