Michael Carter-Williams was back to his old self vs. the Blue Devils. - USA TODAY Sports
The Syracuse Orange hosted Central Connecticut State Monday night in their final non-conference tuneup before opening Big East play. With a loss to Temple and an ugly win over Alcorn State in their recent history, would the Orange right the ship before Rutgers comes to town on Wednesday?
The short answer is yes… sort of. Here’s my courtside report card from SU’s 96-62 win over the Blue Devils, giving Jim Boeheim 902 for his career and tying him for second all time with former Indiana and Texas Tech coach Bob Knight.
Head of the Class
Michael Carter-Williams: MCW’s struggles against Temple were well-documented. We won’t rehash them here. But he followed up that stinker with a subpar effort vs. Alcorn State, tallying only 5 points, 6 assists, and 1 rebound (with 5 turnovers) in a game which was painful to watch for all involved. Well, someone or something lit a fire under his ass over the weekend, because on Monday he was back to the MCW we have come to expect with a near triple-double of 18 points, 13 assists, and 9 rebounds. He took advantage of his size and quickness to get into the lane on multiple occasions, and shot 3-4 from three and 3-4 from the free throw line. That’s good news if the bad taste of the Temple game was still lingering on your palette.
Interior play: The Orange forwards and centers dominated the Blue Devils’ frontcourt like no other opponent this season. CCSU didn’t start anyone taller than 6’6”, and they paid for their lack of size when SU outrebounded them 55-29, including a 21-10 advantage on the offensive glass. To put the backboard dominance another way, SU had more offensive rebounds (21) than CCSU had defensive rebounds (19). You don’t see that too often. Dajuan Coleman paced the post players in scoring with 13, and after the game Brandon Triche jokingly mentioned Coleman “could’ve had 30” if he was able to put away a few more shots around the basket. Coleman was 5-11 from the floor and 3-5 from the line, with 9 boards for a near double-double of his own.
Balance: Coleman and Carter-Williams weren’t the only Orangemen who notched double-digit stat lines against the Devils. C.J. Fair had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Rakeem Christmas came up just short of his own with 9 points and 10 boards. James Southerland and Brandon Triche also scored in double figures with 11 and 13 respectively, as the offensive wealth was spread around to the tune of 8 players scoring 6 points or more.
Stay After School
Slow Start: However, the easy win was not without its faults. Early on the game was tight, and required a late first half run to break things open for the ‘Cuse. CCSU’s Kyle Vinales and Adonis Burbage buried 7 three-pointers between them, many in the first half before SU cranked up the perimeter defense and really started pounding the Devils in the paint. In the second half the Orange showed off their inside-outside abilities by dominating the glass and connecting on 10-22 from three, but against tougher conference opponents they won’t be able to get off to such slow starts and expect to overwhelm their opponents with raw physical ability every time.
Final Grade B-
The final score indicates an easy win, but the first few minutes were anything but as CCSU found some holes in the SU zone. The Orange were able to fix these mistakes and put the game out of reach, but it remains to be seen if this last big non-conference win will carry over to Big East play starting Wednesday night.