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Syracuse 84 - Adrian 35: Orange Rout Bulldogs In Final Exhibition Game


Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was about what we expected, right?

We knew coming into tonight that the Syracuse Orange were going to beat the Adrian Bulldogs and that, in all likelihood, they were going to do so pretty handily. Adrian, a small Division III school in southern Michigan, went 5-20 a season ago and finished dead last (1-13) in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

So the final score -- Syracuse 84 - Adrian 35 -- shouldn't surprise anyone, nor should it really matter.

More important than the game's outcome was how Syracuse looked as a basketball team. And, to be honest, Jim Boeheim's team didn't look all that great at times on Monday night.

The Orange shot just 29 percent from the field in the first half, including 15 percent from beyond the arc. Chris McCullough struggled all game long. He finished 2-of-13 and though he did manage 16 rebounds, you can attribute that mostly to the fact that Adrian's tallest player is 6-foot-5, or five inches shorter than McCullough.

That was really the theme of the night, especially in the first half. The Orange missed shot after shot, but because of their size advantage, they had little trouble getting second and third chances. In total, Syracuse had 24 (24!) offensive rebounds.

Aside from McCullough, the other player to struggle considerably with his shot was, once again, Trevor Cooney. Cooney was 4-of-13 and 2-of-9 from deep. That's not much better than last Sunday against Carleton, when he was 0-of-6 overall and 0-of-4 from three.

"I would have liked to make a couple more shots, but it's alright," Cooney said afterwards. "You learn from it and you move on. I know why I missed the shots...I'll be fine for the season."

The Orange led just 37-24 going into halftime, but shots began to fall after the intermission and the defense played as well as we've seen it play this preseason (it took Adrian nearly 12 minutes to score a point in the second half), allowing Syracuse to pull away.

"It's a learning experience for the young players. I don't know if Trevor and [Michael Gnibije] or [Rakeem Christmas] necessarily need an exhibition game, but the young guys do. It's a game," Boeheim said. "It's a good thing for us to have these. Normally, your two exhibitions games you're going to win by a lot. Carleton was an unusual team."

One of those young guys that Boeheim was referencing: point guard Kaleb Joseph. And for the second straight exhibition game, Joseph played pretty well.

After not scoring a point in the first half, Joseph scored nine in the final 20 minutes and finished 4-of-7 from the field. He also turned the ball over just once and had four assists -- a total that could've been higher had Syracuse's big men made a few more open layups in the first half.

"I think [the two exhibition games] helped me prepare for what's to come," said Joseph. "I think I'm definitely a lot more comfortable now."

Also putting forth a good showing in the win was Michael Gbinije, whom Boeheim reiterated in his press conference can play multiple positions and will see the same type of minutes as any starter will this season. Gbinije scored 10 points (4-of-8), had game-highs six assists and four steals, and only turned the ball over once.

"At the end of last year I started to feel a whole lot more comfortable, and I think that's starting to carry over to this year. Hopefully I can just keep improving," Gbinije said in the locker room.

With these two exhibition games under their belt, the Orange have only a few more days to prepare for Friday night, when they host the Kennesaw State Owls at the Dome in the 2K Classic and in what will be their first regular season game.

Boeheim, when asked if he feels his team is ready for the start of the season: "We'll see Friday night."