The exhibition season got off to an unexpected start. The Syracuse Orange trailed early 22-10, and as the few who watched it saw, the sloppy play was concerning. However, after a quick media timeout, the Orange turned things around for a 83-65 win thanks to their second unit.
The question of who would start was buzzing all week, but it turned out the second unit were the one’s who carried the team. Scoring 32 points off the bench, highlighted by freshman Tyus Battle’s 16, were the reason the Orange got to play with confidence in the second half. The Orange dominated the second, out-scoring the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Crimson Hawks by 13 and out-rebounding them by 13 as well.
This team can go deep — really deep — but only five players can play at a time, and it’s going to be up to Coach Jim Boeheim on who his five are.
“We didn’t get off to a good start for a few reasons, but I thought we battled back really well,” Boeheim said in regards to what he learned from the win. Nothing is going to be easy for the Orange, but to see his team persevere pleased the head coach.
An interesting storyline from the game was the man-to-man defense Boeheim started out in. Syracuse, Boeheim especially, is known for running a 2-3 zone, and seeing man defense was a little jarring. While this may have been a shock to long-time Syracuse observers (especially given the team’s all-in dedication to zone since 2009), the team came prepared as they have been practicing it every day.
“It was a little different, but we’ve been working on it in practice since the beginning of the year so we knew we were going to be using it,” forward Tyler Lydon said regarding the surprising man defense.
Man, Zone, it doesn’t matter; whatever works best for the team will be the defense Boeheim decides to use. What Boeheim knows works best for the team is playing Tyus Battle—a lot. Battle impressed everyone in attendance as he had a game-high 16 points and was second in minutes on his team.
“Staying aggressive having an aggressive mentality, just making threes on the floor when I got in,” Battle said about his fast start. “Getting stops, I think that was a big thing; we got stops, we got in transition, we got easy buckets.”
If playing the game is easy for a freshman, who knows what is next for Battle? The team proved it can go 10-deep if it needs to, and another player who shined through the depth was veteran transfer John Gillon.
Gillon didn’t make as much noise scoring as his teammates did, but his nine assists off the bench made his presence clear. As Boeheim said, “I think John did a good job in the first half, made a couple things happen.” John did more than a couple things, but getting a compliment from Boeheim isn’t as easy as it may seem.
The slow start, the defensive confusion, the exciting new arrivals-- the win ended up providing more than your typical exhibition game. The Orange proved two things tonight. The first being that if their threes aren’t falling (as they missed many in the first five minutes) the games won’t be fun. But if they can combine accurate threes with their fast-paced style of offense, than maybe results like Tuesday’s will become a common occurrence.