The Syracuse Orange opened up the 2017-2018 season with a sloppy, yet effective win over the Cornell Big Red by a score of 77-45. It was a family reunion as coach Jim Boeheim faced his son Jimmy, the shooting guard who happened to open the season with a three in front of his Hall of Fame dad.
Despite the close ties, the Orange were able to use their active defense to terrorize Cornell both in the half court and in the press. Defense was the story of the first half, but an active Syracuse team turned on the jets with an offensive surge in the second half. Sure it was against Cornell, but the Orange showed that their length and versatility are going to be a problem for opposing teams this winter.
The offense will run through Tyus Battle—early and often
Every team that faces the Orange this year will know where the ball is going from the start: Tyus Battle. The sophomore guard found the ball in his hand plenty against the Big Red as he looked to use his quick first step to open up space for his jumper. Foul trouble hindered him early, but Battle looked to be confident with his three-ball and pull up shot throughout the game.
Battle and starting point guard Frank Howard worked well together as they took turns attacking the weaker Cornell defenders. It was only one game, but an 18-point outing on 6-of-14 shooting is a nice way to start the year for the new team leader.
It may not be long until Bourama Sidibe enters the starting lineup
The center position is a big question mark for Syracuse this year, but the play from Bourama Sidibe may have answered that question in just one game. Sidibe didn’t start the game, but he made it near impossible for coach Boeheim to take him out of once he subbed him in.
Sidibe’s length made him a constant threat on both ends of the court. From a crowd-lifting fast break block, to a crafty drop step in the post, Sidibe showed that he has a complete skillset that can truly help the Orange win. It was a small sample size, but Sidibe showed that Paschal Chukwu may not have his starting job for much longer.
Transition offense will be crucial against big-time opponents
The Orange struggled to hit their shots in the first half, leading to a lack of scoring in the half court. The lack of consistency from the field didn’t bode well for SU as they were struggling to generate transition looks too.
That all changed though with a second half surge. Coach Boeheim must’ve said something in the locker room as the team looked to push the pace off of defensive rebounds, allowing for Syracuse’s length to be utilized around the rim. The Orange are lucky to have athletes such as Battle and Oshae Brissett who can score in a multitude of ways on the break; however, they need to create those transition opportunities if they want to start thinking about capitalizing on them.
It may have been a slow start, but the Orange showed that against weaker opponents they will be able to use their length to their advantage. Let’s just hope it works in the real games.