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Syracuse basketball: Players-only meeting helps Orange get back on track

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The players took the St. John’s loss into their own hands.

NCAA Basketball: Cornell at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve all heard of teams calling for players-only meetings. It happens a lot in professional sports, but you don’t hear it too often in the college game. Coaches are normally in total control of everything that goes on.

But the Syracuse Orange basketball players had enough after the embarrassing 33-point loss to former Big East rival St. John’s last week.

“On our way out of the Dome, we said ‘We’ve got to do something,’” Frank Howard told Syracuse.com after Tuesday’s victory over Cornell.

NCAA Basketball: Cornell at Syracuse
Syracuse guard Frank Howard drive to the basket during the first half of the Orange’s win over Cornell.
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The only problem with holding a players-only meeting was that everyone would be gone by the morning. The Syracuse players were heading home for Christmas break, which meant the team had to act quickly.

Before leaving, everyone met in the team’s locker room at the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center — otherwise known as the Melo Center.

“We closed the door and had a big talk with each other,” Howard said. “We sat down and looked at ourselves in the mirror. We put everything on the table. We really just talked about what’s wrong with our team. We figured some stuff out and now we’re building back up.”

In its first game since the players-only meeting, Syracuse cruised to a victory over Cornell, 80-56. The Orange, now 8-5 on the season, will begin ACC play on Sunday at Boston College.

“We all chimed in,” freshman Taurean Thompson said after Tuesday’s win. “Everybody got a chance to say whatever they wanted to say. Everybody got a chance to talk.”

“Some players meetings, you’re just trying to do something to make the coach happy,” Howard said. “It wasn’t anything like that. It wasn’t superficial. We’d lost. We needed to sit down and talk about it. It was very serious. We talked about each other and our individual selves.”

Another sophomore — Tyler Lydon — gave his thoughts on the meeting. “I think it meant a lot. Everyone was able to put their thoughts out on the table. I think that helps anytime you’ve got guys speaking to each other and being honest. I think you can only benefit from that. I think it helped and we’ve just got to keep moving forward.”

NCAA Basketball: Cornell at Syracuse
Syracuse Orange guard Andrew White takes a shot during the second half of Tuesday’s 80-56 victory over Cornell.
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew White — who has only been with the team for a handful of months — thought the meeting was successful. His message was simple: We’re not out of it yet.

“I let them know that we’re not out if we choose to keep ourselves in it. I think it was encouraging. We’ll see what we can get out of it.”

So far, so good.

Syracuse has its work cut out for itself moving forward. But Tuesday was a step in the right direction and it got the Orange back on track.