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Cal 73 - Syracuse 59: Five Takeaways From the Orange's First Loss

Last night wasn't pretty but here are five takeaways from the loss.

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports
In their first real test of the 2014-15 season, the Syracuse Orange disappointed on Thursday night, falling 73-59 to the California Golden Bears at Madison Square Garden. Still, Syracuse gets to play in this evening's consolation game against the Iowa Hawkeyes.

That game tips off at 5:00 p.m. (ET), but before we get there, let's look at the five things we can take away from last night's loss:

1. Kaleb Joseph is a freshman point guard

Yeah, we already knew this. But Joseph is a freshman freshman. One who will make freshman mistakes, at least during the early parts of this season, as he did tonight. He turned the ball over four times, and though the rest of his stat line (5-of-10, 13 points, three assists) doesn't indicate it, he played as we should expect an 18-year old to play in his third collegiate game and his first nationally-televised game. We were spoiled by Tyler Ennis last season and by Michael Carter-Williams the season prior. Joseph isn't either of those players, at least not yet. But he will get better.

2. Trevor Cooney? Yeah, he's still slumping

In the TNIAAM predictions for last night's game, I said Trevor Cooney would break out of his slump. I thought Cooney looked close to doing as much on Sunday, when it seemed like a few of his misses were nearly makes. Obviously, I was wrong. Cooney finished 3-for-10 from the field and 2-of-6 from beyond the arc. At this point, I don't know if Cooney is just struggling or if this is what he's going to be this season, but I'm hoping for the former.

3. The Orange can't always rely on Rakeem Christmas for offense

Syracuse struggled to score on Thursday night, and that was partially because the guy they've been relying the most on for offense -- Rakeem Christmas -- never got things going offensively. Christmas, who was averaging 18 points per game coming into last night, shot 3-for-10 from the field and had only eight points. The lesson: to be successful, the Orange are going to need to find consistent offensive elsewhere this season. It can't always be Rak that we're depending on.

4. The one positive: Chris McCullough

Chris McCullough, even in a loss, impressed me last night. He filled up the stat sheet all game long, finishing with 12 points, a team-high seven rebounds, five blocks, and three steals. It's been impossible to know if McCullough will live up to his five-star rating, but Thursday night was a good indicator that he just might.

5. This is going to take time

I didn't expect Syracuse to lose to Cal. I didn't. But let's not overreact here -- it's November. We learned last night that the Orange are going to struggle early on this season, and that's okay. It makes sense. Last night, eight guys saw game action. Of those eight players, only two of them -- Christmas and Cooney -- were significant contributors to last year's team. There are new faces everywhere. It's going to take time for these guys to reach their full potential. But I feel confident saying that, in a couple of months, we will be watching a completely different (and better) Syracuse basketball team. And fortunately, after tonight's game, the Orange have a pretty easy schedule between now and late January, and thus some time to figure this thing out. Let's just hope they do.