After sweating out a close victory over St. Bonaventure earlier in the week, the Syracuse Orange hoped for an easier road when they hosted the Elon Phoenix as part of the "Battle 4 Atlantis" tournament Saturday night. But much like on Tuesday, SU had to make a second half comeback in order to pull out a 66-55 win over a seemingly inferior squad.
Here’s my report card from courtside:
Head of the Class: Tyler Roberson
I haven’t gone back and looked at the stats, but this may have been the best all-around game of Roberson’s career. I’d even go so far as to say he is the reason SU won the game. He pulled down 16 rebounds, 7 of them offensive, on his way to 20 points in 37 minutes of play. SU needed every one of those offensive rebounds, as they shot only 20-51 (39%) from the floor against an Elon squad that wasn’t exactly stocked with shotblockers and ballhawks.
Michael Gbinije: Midway through the first half, Gbinije exited the game with three personal fouls. To that point he had scored 6 points on a couple of threes, and pitched in 4 rebounds in about 6 minutes of play. It’s no coincidence that Elon proceeded to go on a rebounding and scoring run to actually take the lead with less than 5 minutes left in the half. Roberson may have won the game for SU, but Gbinije’s foul trouble could have been the reason they lost. His shooting, playmaking, and ability to finish on the break are crucial to the success of a team that doesn’t have much of an inside presence. I foresee him playing big minutes in every game, barring blowouts, as Boeheim looks to the senior for leadership and production on both ends of the floor.
Free Throw Shooting: The Orange were an un-Orange-like 20-25 as a team, with freshman Malachi Richardson doing the most damage with a spiffy 10-12 from the stripe. If SU can continue to shoot well from deep it will open up driving and passing lanes. Attacking the rim will get them easier looks at the basket, including free throws. And as we all know, #FreeThrowsMatter.
Stay After School:
Interior Defense: I lost count of how many times an Elon guard would penetrate into the lane and drop the ball down to a forward on the baseline when SU’s center stepped up to contest. Or, an Elon big would get the ball in the high post, face the basket, and find a teammate cutting backdoor. This is basic 2-3 zone stuff that will need to be ironed out, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Depth: It seems like Boeheim has settled on freshman forward Tyler Lydon as the backup for both Dajuan Coleman at center and Roberson at power forward. Lydon played 35 minutes tonight, giving SU five players who racked up more than 25 minutes, and four guys who played 10 or fewer. One of those four was Coleman, the starting center. Will this be another year of a short bench and high minute counts for a select few? Or will players like Coleman, Franklin Howard, and Kaleb Joseph earn their way onto the floor and allow their teammates to catch their breath once in a while?
Final Grade: B
Lydon deserves a honorable mention for his exciting, if somewhat inconsistent, play Saturday night. He had a chasedown block that prevented an Elon fast break score that electrified the crowd. He calmly drained a three with the shot clock winding down and a defender right in his face. He also clanged one shot off of the backboard, and another slipped out of his hands and ended up near midcourt. He has the makings of a star once he figures things out and performs this well on a consistent basis.
For additional accounts of this game feel free to follow me on Twitter @JeremyRyan44.