The Orange withstood the Bulldogs’ feverish full court press and a host of turnovers to hold on for the last-second win, 71-69. Here is my report card from courtside:
Head of the Class: Tyler Roberson
In my opinion, Roberson had his best game in an Orange uniform on Sunday, tallying 14 points and a career-high 17 rebounds in 33 minutes off the bench. His energy was infectious, especially on the offensive end, and helped carry SU to 20 total offensive rebounds. He spent a good portion of his playing time at power forward in place of Chris McCullough, who picked up his fourth foul early in the second half, and capably spelled both McCullough and Rakeem Christmas throughout the second half. Boeheim made mention of that in his postgame
rant news conference, saying that Roberson’s best position is at the ‘4’ (power forward) and he struggles at small forward because he "tries to do too much". In a perfect world Michael Gbinije and B.J. Johnson could hold down the 3 spot and allow Roberson to back up McCullough at the 4, but we all know things are *far* from perfect for SU right now.
Trevor Cooney: How I missed this guy! SU basketball games are so much more fun when Cooney is playing well, and he had his best game of the season on Sunday. He scored a season-high 25 points on 8-18 shooting over 40 minutes, including 4-8 from three and 5-5 from the charity stripe. 13 of those points were scored inside the arc, as Cooney displayed an enhanced repertoire of drives to the rim and pull-up jumpers that had been for the most part absent so far this year. He also took over ballhandling duties late in the second half when it became apparent that Kaleb Joseph wasn’t up to the task (more on that later).
If Cooney can contribute even *half* of this output on a regular basis, SU will be a much better team for it. But I don’t think any sane SU fan truly questions Cooney’s talent. It’s his consistency, plain and simple. Can he do this game after game? Time will tell.
Rakeem Christmas: Rak had a slightly subpar outing by his recent standards, but his bucket to put SU up by two with less then three seconds left was a beautiful thing to witness. I was sitting just a few feet behind Cooney as he triggered the ball inbounds, and was fortunate to watch the entire play develop right in front of me. Christmas did a masterful job sealing his man a step above the left block, and as soon as Cooney pass the ball to Rak’s left hand he immediately turned to the middle and unleashed a feathery right-handed hook that dropped through the net for two. It was the play of the game, and perhaps the season so far. Would the Rakeem Christmas of a year or two ago been able to make that play? I doubt it. That goes to show just how much he has developed, and why I think (along with Roberson’s play today) we shouldn’t be so quick to write off SU’s struggling sophomore class.
Stay After School
Chris McCullough: No two ways about it, Chris had his worst game as an Orange man. He was limited to only 26 minutes of action after picking up two quick fouls in the beginning of the second half and riding the pine with four. After scoring in double figures in every game of his career to this point, he was due for a clunker and only scored 5 on Sunday, shooting a paltry 1-6 from the field and grabbing only 6 rebounds. Luckily he had Roberson to pick up the slack. I sure as hell didn’t think I’d be typing *that*!
Kaleb Joseph and SU’s Press Offense: SU fans know they were spoiled by "Iceman" Tyler Ennis last year, and we’re reminded of how great we had it after games like this. Kaleb Joseph is a normal freshman point guard, and was facing an experienced, guard-dominated opponent that pressed and trapped for most of the game. He tried to force the issue on several occasions and turned the ball over a brutal 8 times to only 4 assists, which makes my head hurt because I don’t want to live in a world where SU’s PG has a 1:2 assist to turnover ratio. Joseph’s teammates didn’t help much, leaving him out to dry on more than one occasion or dropping seemingly easy passes, leaving Boeheim to go on a mini-rant after the game about the philosophical virtues of using both hands to catch the basketball.
Final Grade: B
A win's a win, and it's great to see Cooney and Roberson play well, but if LA Tech could force SU to turn the ball over like this then I'm afraid of what Louisville will do.
Michael Gbinije started the game in place of Roberson, but played only 14 minutes in the first half and none in the second. It looked like he suffered an injury to his right leg, though no one from SU had any updates after the game. SU has a week off before they travel to Villanova, so he has a week to rest and heal up. However, it will be interesting to see who gets the start if he can’t go, since Boeheim has made it clear that Roberson is better suited at the 4 - as I mentioned above.
Christmas was also in foul trouble in the second half and finished with four. Not a good look against a Bulldogs squad that was for the most part physically outmatched on the interior. He was 5-6 from the floor and 3-4 from the line in his 25 minutes, however.
SU seemed to break out of its three-point shooting slump, going a respectable 5-12 (41.7%) from beyond the arc. In addition to Cooney’s 4-8, Joseph was 1-2 and
Roberson Johnson was 0-2.
For a more detailed commentary on the game and Boeheim’s post-game news conference, click on my Twitter feed.