For the first time this month, the Syracuse Orange won a basketball game on Sunday, beating the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 71-69. Here are my five takeaways from the win:
1. That's the Trevor Cooney we need!
In what was surely his best game of the young season, Trevor Cooney scored a game-high 25 points, went 4-of-8 from deep, had three steals, and didn't commit any of Syracuse's 17 turnovers. In a game which provided a number of reasons for SU fans to feel uneasy, Cooney was one of the few positives. If not for him, you can bet the Orange would have lost their third consecutive game.
2. And that's the Tyler Roberson we need!
Like Cooney, Tyler Roberson had what was, without much of a doubt, his best game this season. He scored a season-high 14 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, notching an easy double-double -- his second this year. Roberson very well may be the x-factor on this Syracuse team, and for the Orange to be successful, they'll likely need more of the same from him as the season progresses.
3. Kaleb Joseph is still really, really struggling.
Kaleb Joseph had another poor showing on Sunday, finishing with eight turnovers and only four assists. He now has 34 turnovers in just nine games, or 24 fewer than Tyler Ennis had all of last season. The good news with Kaleb is that, to me, it's not a talent issue. The athleticism is there, and so is the ability and potential. But he gets rattled rather quickly and forces things far too often, which will always lead to turnovers. We haven't seen much to suggest that he's getting any better or more comfortable, but it's not as if he isn't capable of turning his season around.
4. Syracuse found a way to win a close one.
After disappointing finishes in the losses to St. John's and Michigan, it was almost natural to expect Syracuse to fold at the end of last night's game. The Orange had held a 10-point lead in the game's final minutes before the Bulldogs stormed all the way back to force a 69-69 tie with 27 seconds remaining, and it sure seemed like the wheels were falling off. But to their credit, the Orange found a way to win, thanks to a successful Rakeem Christmas jump hook with four seconds left.
5. Even after a win, it might be time to worry.
After taking time to digest yesterday's win, I've arrived at one conclusion: the Orange are in trouble. Yes, it's a conclusion that many of you had probably reached after the St. John's loss, but one that I wasn't ready to come to before yesterday. But yesterday's game, for me, was even more discouraging than any of the three losses. Syracuse needed a game-winner in the final seconds to beat a team that gave up 94 points in a loss to Louisiana Lafayette and that, despite what anyone wants you to believe, isn't all that good. Tech's 7-3 record looks a lot worse when you realize the Bulldogs have only beaten one team with a winning record -- American, which is barely hovering over .500 at 5-4. In Saturday's roundtable, I predicted a 14-point Syracuse win, because, at home, Syracuse should beat Louisiana Tech by 14 points. I'm pressing the panic button. This team still has time to figure out whatever it is that needs to be figured out, but it better happen quickly.