The Syracuse Orange had no issues with the Colgate Raiders on Monday, dropping their in-state foe 73-48 at the Carrier Dome. Here are five takeaways from the win:
1. The Orange are getting better.
A team that has struggled at times to this 7-4 start, the Orange finally seem to be figuring things out. In the first half of last night's win, they committed zero turnovers and shot 50 percent from the field, all while forcing ten turnovers and holding Colgate to just 21 percent shooting. It was, by almost every measure, one of the best halves of basketball they've played yet, and it allowed them to open up a 43-13 halftime lead. That came just two days after Syracuse played what I considered to be its most complete game of the season in what should have been a win at Villanova. It's only two games -- one of which was against a 3-8 Patriot League Team -- but it certainly feels like Jim Boeheim's team could be turning a corner.
2. Trevor Cooney just might be Syracuse's best player.
A few weeks ago, I never envisioned I would write that sentence, but with the way Cooney is playing, it's not a stretch. Now 11-of-22 from beyond the arc in the past three games, Cooney has finally found his stroke. And whether it be with his midrange jumper or by driving to the basket, he's producing in more ways than just shooting the three. That's especially nice to see, because there will be games when his shot just isn't falling. In those games, he'll need to figure out different ways to score, which is something he's proving that he's more than capable of doing.
3. Moving forward, maybe Ron Patterson and B.J. Johnson can be legitimate contributors.
Patterson and Johnson, both of whom have struggled throughout the season, combined to go 8-of-15 from the field and 4-of-8 from three in the win. Perhaps this is an indication that they can provide positive contributions more consistently in the future, but that's probably a stretch, considering that most of their production last night came in garbage time against a pretty bad Colgate team. Still, if one or both of these guys can get hot and stay hot, that could help take Syracuse to whatever that next level might be.
4. Turnovers: that was better!
Prior to last night, Syracuse had committed 17 or more turnovers in three of four games. On Monday, the Orange didn't turn the ball over at all in the first half, and the six turnovers that they did have were committed when the game's outcome had already been decided. Even against a team like Colgate, it was encouraging to see Syracuse take much better care of the basketball.
5. The freshmen struggled, but that's O.K.
Kaleb Joseph and Chris McCullough combined to go 1-of-9 for four points last night, marking only the second time they've both been held in single digits this season. McCullough is now 2-of-16 for 12 points in the last three games, while Joseph is 9-of-26 for 19 points and has committed 14 turnovers in the same span. But let's not panic. McCullough is simply hitting his first rough patch after a red-hot start to the season. For a freshman, that makes sense. He's going to have his ups and downs, as will Joseph, whom I've actually seen progress from. He didn't play as much last night (only 26 minutes), but he had a season-high 10 assists on Saturday and is starting to appear more and more comfortable running the offense. I could be wrong, but I expect that the best is still to come for both of our freshmen.