After suffering four straight losses to begin ACC play, Syracuse picked up its first conference win on Wednesday night, topping Boston College 62-40 in the Carrier Dome.
Here are three takeaways from SU's win:
Gbinije, Syracuse excel with Howard at point guard
Franklin Howard's final line on Wednesday night wasn't particularly impressive. In 14 minutes, he went 0-of-4 from the field with two assists and one turnover. That's likely what prompted head coach Jim Boeheim to say afterward that inserting Howard "didn't work."
Despite Boeheim's comments, though, Howard's presence seemed to have a positive effect. When he was in the game, Syracuse was plus-16 — an impressive mark, even against Boston College. And it was during those minutes, with Howard at point guard, that Michael Gbinije was at his best on a night that saw him rebound from recent struggles.
In the four weeks leading up Wednesday's contest, Gbinije had suffered through an extreme offensive slump. In the seven games starting with the Orange's 67-46 win over Cornell on Dec. 19 and ending with their 84-73 loss to North Carolina on Saturday, Gbinije shot just 36.3% from the field and 22% from 3-point range.
On Wednesday, he went 5-of-8 from the field overall for an efficient 14 points. He went 2-of-3 from the field and made his only 3-pointer when Howard was in the game. With Howard playing point guard, it allowed Gbinije to shift to the wing — where, since he's off the ball, he's generally more effective.
Gbinije acknowledged to Syracuse.com's Donna Ditota that the move helped him.
"It's a good feeling to get a chance to focus solely on me instead of everybody," he said.
Led by Roberson, SU continues to rebound well
Before an over-the-back foul forced him to the bench with 14:22 to play, SU forward Tyler Roberson looked to be on pace for one of his best rebounding performances yet. He had already pulled down 12 boards, five of which came on the offensive end. But Roberson didn't return to the game after committing that foul.
Still, his showing on the glass was enough for Syracuse to outdo Boston College on the boards, as the Orange pulled down 35 rebounds to the Eagles' 27. It marked the fourth consecutive game that SU has held its own on the glass, alleviating concerns that the team would struggle in that area all season long. The Orange outrebounded Miami 41-38 on Jan. 2 before narrowly losing the rebounding battle, 28-27, to Clemson on Jan. 5. Syracuse then had arguably its most impressive rebounding performance on Saturday, grabbing two more rebounds than the Tar Heels, one of the country's top rebounding teams.
That was easy, but what's coming won't be
Boston College is clearly the worst team in the ACC, and it's in a tight contest with Rutgers to be the worst team in a Power Five conference. So the Orange beating the Eagles, who had suffered previous losses to the likes of Santa Clara and UMass Lowell, was to be expected.
But Syracuse's road is about to get much more difficult. On Saturday, SU visits Wake Forest before traveling to Cameron Indoor Stadium for a date with Duke on Monday. The following Saturday, the Orange will face another difficult road test in Virginia.
That's life in the ACC, but Syracuse better hope it comes away with it least one win during the stretch, or the hole its already in will just get that much deeper.