It was really cool of Jim Boeheim and Rob Murphy to host a basketball game for pre-press conference entertainment last night. It was way better than Meek Mill.
Last night's game was an appreciated return to normalcy at the Carrier Dome. Seeing Coach Murph share a teary moment with Boeheim was a really awesome moment. Most people know Rob Murphy for goofy rap songs, but he really was one of the more genuine people I've met at Syracuse. Murphy would come by the student section (along with Kris Joseph) before almost every game to chat it up with us. He was really into connecting with the student population and did whatever he could to support us. I only have great things to say about him, and I think he's going to be a great head coach.
This team has come out pretty slow all year. Now unlike last year's team in the out of conference slate, we've recovered and made big second half runs every game, and last night was no different. I liked how many different looks we gave last night, including some solid minutes in the man-to-man. Florida is going to be a big test; they are a team that could shred a zone with their shooting. If we are going to see legitimate man-to-man minutes from this Syracuse team this year, we'll find out on Friday.
Scoop had his best game of the season, scoring eight points on 4-6 shooting, and doling out seven assists with only two turnovers. He could've had double digit assists if our bigs could finish around the hoop in the first half. I really loved the way Scoop played, and I'd rather see him at 8/7/2 over 14/3/6 any day of the week.
Brandon Triche shot the ball really well. He did all of his damage from beyond the arc, scoring 12 points on 4-7 shooting from three. I'd still like to see him attack the basket more, which he was doing earlier in the season, but if he's hot from deep, I'm all for him riding the lightning since he is such a streaky player. He also had four assists and only one turnover.
Our ball movement last night was really really tremendous; probably the best it has been since the Andy Rautins/Wes Johnson team. Last year we (ironically) struggled against zone defenses because we didn't have great outside shooting, and our passing was suspect at time. This year, I don't expect many teams to attempt to zone us.
Dion had a quieter game last night than he's been having, only scoring seven points on 2-7 shooting. Like the other two guards, he played a good floor game, with three assists and one turnover, and had a good game on defense with three steals and two blocks.
I really liked what we saw from Michael Carter-Williams last night. He didn't attempt a shot, but he did everything else well, with five assists and no turnovers. There was one stretch where MCW got abused by Eastern Michigan's diminutive star guard Darrell Lampley on both ends of the court, so hopefully he learns from that. He recovered well though, and I was happy with how he ran the offense. He also had three steals; if he continues to learn the zone he can be the same kind of demon in the passing lanes that Rautins was as a senior.
It's been a pleasure watching Kris Joseph grow as a shooter over the last four years. I'm not sure if he's missed an open three this year. He's not the shooter that Wes Johnson was, but if he continues to improve his overall offensive game, he may just be a more dynamic scorer by the time the season's done.
It seems like C.J. Fair and James Southerland are turning into a two-headed backup forward. C.J. is entirely more effective against man-to-man defenses, while Southerland shreds zones to pieces. I am still more comfortable with C.J. out there, as he has proven he can have big games against good teams, but if Southerland continues to play this well, and puts up big performances against legit teams (like Florida on Friday), he's going to become a huge player for us. As Boeheim said in the presser last night in one of the small sections where basketball was discussed, Southerland needs to come out with the same mentality against man defenses as he does against zones.
I was thrilled with how Christmas played last night. He has a way better back-to-the-basket game than Fab or Baye did last year, and maybe even this year, he just looks like a guy who needs to score a few times to gain confidence. Triche and MCW are the only guards who have been looking to feed the guys down low, hopefully Dion and Scoop begin to do the same. The one big knock on Rakeem right now is learning to position his body so he doesn't get called for fouls when he's going for blocks. He also gets caught in the air too many times. These are all correctable freshman mistakes.
Fab had a tough game overall, but it was nice to see him bury both of his free throws. He needs to do a better job of positioning around the basket and finishing when he gets the ball.
Baye Keita didn't play very well in the first half, but he was pretty effective in the second. He scored seven points on four shots which is solid. He only grabbed four rebounds however, and he still seems to be having issues with catching passes and collecting boards, so I'm not sure if the hand that limited him last year is bothering him again.
The Florida game on Friday is the biggest non-conference home game we've had since I've been at SU, and it will be a great litmus test for how good this team can be. There are already tents outside the Carrier Dome, and there is a pep rally planned for Friday afternoon, so this is going to be a big one.