A night after struggling to a 14-point loss to the California Golden Bears that left some wondering if the Syracuse Orange were NIT bound in 2015, Jim Boeheim's team rebounded nicely with a 66-63 win against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Yes, it was the consolation game of the 2K Classic, but nevertheless, it was nice to see the Orange beat a quality opponent -- even if it wasn't all that easy. Here are five takeaways from Syracuse's third win:
1. The big men continue to lead the way.
Forwards Chris McCullough and Rakeem Christmas had been Syracuse's two most consistent scoring options through three games prior to last night, and that trend continued against Iowa. McCullough and Rak combined to score 38 points and made 14 of their 23 shot attempts. I'm still skeptical about the Orange running their offense through Christmas, but McCullough is already blossoming into the player that many of us hoped he could be at one point this season. That's a really good sign.
2. Trevor Cooney...better?
After McCullough and Christmas, Trevor Cooney was the only other player on the Syracuse side who served at all as a scoring threat last night. He scored 14 points and finished 5-for-12 from the field, including 3-for-9 from deep. Nothing spectacular, but as many of you noted in the comments of this piece yesterday, it might be unfair to conclude that Cooney's recent struggles from three have even been struggles at all. Maybe scoring 14 points on 5-for-12 shooting is what we should consider a good night from Cooney.
3. Syracuse might struggle against the full court press this season.
If last night was any indicator, Syracuse isn't going to fare well against full court presses. At the hands of Iowa's full court press, the Orange committed ten second half turnovers, resulting in a 17-4 Hawkeye run that reduced Syracuse's 15-point lead to just one point in the final minutes.
4. Kaleb Joseph is still learning.
Joseph turned the ball over four times last night and, for the second time in as many nights, looked more and more like the freshman point guard that he is. He also had some pretty horrifically-selected shots, a couple of which almost cost Syracuse a win. Joseph still has plenty of learning to do, and if we didn't know that before this tournament, we do now. Still, it's November. He'll get better.
5. The Orange found a way to win.
No, it wasn't always pretty. Yes, it looked very much like Syracuse was going to let this one slip away in the final minutes, which would have been pretty disastrous. But that didn't happen. The Orange found a way to win last night. For a team as young and as inexperienced as this one, that's a good sign. It would've been nice to see them close it out when they had an opportunity to in the middle of the second half, but I'm content with the result. Even as the lone team to go 0-2 this weekend, the Hawkeyes have the potential to be pretty good this season, and beating them is no small feat. There's plenty for Syracuse to improve on moving forward, but as John pointed out in last night's recap, finishing 1-1 this weekend is probably what most of us expected. Now, on to Tuesday.