USA TODAY Sports
After dropping four of their last five regular season contests, the Syracuse Orange entered the Big East Tournament looking to turn things around or face an early exit from their final BET. Fortunately their first opponent was Seton Hall, a team they defeated last month 75-63.
Here is my recap of the game from press row:
Head of the Class:
I was tempted to go with James Southerland’s molten shooting – which we’ll get to later – but the real MVP of the game was Michael Carter-Williams. Like all great true point guards, Carter-Williams possesses the ability to control a game without shouldering a heavy scoring burden. Wednesday he proved it, dishing out a tournament-record-tying 14 assists while giving up only one measly turnover. His assists came from all angles, whether it was finding Southerland trailing the break for a three or lobbing a fast break alley-oop to a streaking Baye Keita. The fact that he had 6 points on 2-6 shooting was immaterial. When MCW plays like this the Orange offense is tough to stop. So why doesn’t he do it more often?
James Southerland: James basically kept the Orange in the game in the first half with his white hot shooting stroke. At halftime he had 17 of SU’s 34 points on 5-7 shooting from beyond the arc. Though he only had 3 in the second half, he finished with 20 while playing all 40 minutes in his third start of the season. The outcome of the game would have likely been much different without his timely offense.
Brandon Triche: Maybe he just really likes playing Seton Hall, but after scoring a career-high 29 in SU’s first meeting with the Pirates he came out of his coma with 17 on Wednesday. He shot an excellent 6-9 from the floor in 37 minutes, mixing two 3-pointers with midrange jumpers and fast break scores. He also had five assists, and punctuated his effort with a straightaway three and fist pump that showed more emotion in five seconds than he had in the last five games.
Stay After Class:
Perimeter Defense: As hot as Southerland – and the entire team – was in the first half, Seton Hall was even hotter. The Pirates shot 51% from the floor and 50% from three, which was topped only by SU’s 56/60% shooting. Guards Aaron Cosby (4-6) and Kyle Smyth (3-5) were particularly effective from beyond the arc, taking advantage of slow Orange rotations to bomb away relatively unimpeded.
Bench Support: Jim Boeheim once again chose to shorten his rotation, sitting Dajuan Coleman completely and playing Jerami Grant and Trevor Cooney only three minutes each. It clearly worked, and Boeheim has the right to go with who he thinks will win the game, but I wonder if a heavy minute burden from C.J. Fair, MCW, Triche and Southerland (37 or more minutes each) will come back to haunt them vs. Pitt or down the road.
Final Grade: B+
Is this the game that gets SU off the skids and back to their early-season winning ways? Or is it a case of the right opponent at the right time? We’ll find out Thursday, won’t we…?