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Report Card: Syracuse Hounds Loyola in 70-37 Win

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After losing their first game of the season down in New York City, the Syracuse Orange returned home looking to address some of their many, many issues when they hosted Loyola of Maryland before an announced 17,691 at the Carrier Dome.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

However, I don’t think the Dome crew got rid of all the ice after Saturday’s hockey game, because both teams were frigid from long range as SU ground out a 70-37 win over the hopelessly outmatched Greyhounds.

Here is my report card from courtside:

Head of the Class: Rakeem Christmas

Rak played with a perpetual scowl on his face all night, like someone put coal in his stocking. This was my first opportunity to watch him and the Orange up close this season, and while he has certainly been more aggressive on offense he still has a habit of making some of the same bad mistakes that plagued his first three years on the hill. I could write and entire article on what I think he is doing right (and wrong) in the post, but it is nice to see that he is finally committed to attacking the basket and doing something with the opportunities he has been given. I have a feeling that Christmas is ultimately going to be the key to the season, so now is the time to let him get all those touches and work out the kinks before the meat of the season starts in January.

Christmas finished the contest with 18 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 blocks in 30 minutes, but still had to sit out a healthy portion of the second half with foul trouble after picking up his fourth with more than eight minutes to go. Of course, one could make the argument that the game was in hand by that point, but four fouls are still four fouls. If he can stay out of foul trouble he has a chance to be one of the best centers in the league. If he can’t, I fear it’s going to be a long and tough season for everyone – Christmas, his teammates, and SU fans.

Passing Grades

Defense: Let’s not kid ourselves – Loyola may be the worst offensive team in the country. They came into the night ranked 330th in points per game and 345th in field goal percentage. Mind you, there are only 351 teams in Division I. That said, the Orange did manage to hold the Greyhounds to a paltry 19.2% shooting from the floor for the game, including 15% in the first half. As previously mentioned, Christmas blocked 6 Greyhound shots, and as a result the Loyola frontcourt contributed a grand total of 0 points.

Again, it isn’t like SU was playing Kentucky, but it was a solid effort all around.

Stay After School

Defensive Rebounding: As good as the Orange defense was, their defensive rebounding was suspect. SU gave up 15 offensive rebounds to the Greyhounds, several on long caroms after errant three-point attempts. B.J. Johnson, who on paper had a nice night with 6 points and 9 rebs, missed a couple of obvious box outs and allowed his man – often several inches shorter – to go over or around him for an offensive board. If they’re going to allow a team like Loyola to do that, what happens when they have to face Duke or North Carolina?

Final Grade: C

SU played this game like I wrote term papers in college. They did just enough to get the job done. At first glance it looks like the Orange kicked the crap out of a bad team, but there were some HUGE flaws that were evident throughout. SU shot 16.7% (2-12) from three. They shot only 58.3% (14-24) from the free throw line. They only outrebounded Loyola by 4. Stats like that will get you a one-way ticket to loserville (no, not Georgetown) in the ACC.

Note: Forward Tyler Roberson sat out the game with a strained "something", in Jim Boeheim’s words. That’s literally what he called it. Boeheim said after the game that he does not have a timetable for Roberson’s return, so no word on whether he’ll be ready to play when the Orange host Holy Cross on Friday. Johnson started in his place.

For more commentary on the game and Boeheim's post-game news conference, click on my Twitter feed.