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Syracuse vs. Southern Connecticut State preview / GameThread

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The Orange play their final of two “very important” exhibition games before Friday’s opener vs. Cornell.

Oshae Brissett talks to the media after his first game in Syracuse
Bobby Manning

Tonight’s game between the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team and the Southern Connecticut State Owls starts at 7 p.m. ET from the Carrier Dome. You can catch the action on ACC Network Extra if you’re not at the Dome.

Consider this thread (and preview) to be your hub for the contest.

Frank Howard stood calm in the locker room after a clean second half of passing, only one turnover, compared to five in the first. Early he motioned at teammates with a look of frustration on his face, one play expecting Matthew Moyer to cut. It didn’t happen and Syracuse struggled early against Southern New Hampshire.

“I was hyped,” he said. “That's why my first half was the way it was ... first half we're coming out jacking shots. Everybody hyped."

It was Howard’s first start for the Orange since Jan. 1, exactly ten months prior. One year after playing on a Final Four team he saw his minutes come and go. Now as the longest-tenured player on Syracuse even he felt “jitters” in his first appearance back at the Carrier Dome.

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

SU broke out of their early slump by simply flipping a switch into a full court press. They scorched by the Penmen by 30 points and saw their shooting percentage jump from the low 30s early to 45 percent by the end. Normally these are games that Jim Boeheim said the Orange simply try to get over with, with this young roster he called the match-ups “very important.”

The Orange had worked on the press in the preseason and implemented it early to get the team moving. Marek Dolezaj entered and immediately forced two turnovers guarding inbounds plays, and Syracuse was on its way to a 22-0 run that eased all tensions into the second half.

Boeheim said being a smaller team, SNHU switched often and made it difficult to get into their offense. So SU ran.

“We've been working on that,” Howard said. “And it worked well for us. We have a great team for it ... fast pace. Get up and down. Push the pace. Press ... that's the identity we're trying to form."

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

As Syracuse transitions into their second game, how they continue to set up Tyus Battle and freshman Oshae Brissett will be something to watch. As well as the continued impact Paschal Chukwu and Bourama Sidibe have after blocking 12 shots in the first exhibition.

Also, Geno Thorpe will finally join the team. Boeheim had said he thought it was reasonable he plays tonight against Southern Connecticut State, but that he “wouldn’t bet on it.” Thorpe said in the locker room he wished he could have played in that game (vs. Southern New Hampshire). But’s Mike Waters confirmed he’ll go this evening.

Boeheim said Battle, who led all scorers with 20 vs. SNHU, will get his shots. If he hit his threes, Boeheim added, it would have been a bigger game for him. But the offense was able to get by on dribble drives.

"I think the guys last year helped me transition to this spot well,” Battle said. I just have to keep on being aggressive."

NCAA Basketball: ACC Media Day Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The whole locker room shared sentiments of this process taking time. Battle expressed how big of a struggle the 2-3 zone can be early for new players. Howard Washington expressed how surprising the play of the big men inside is. While Moyer said he wants to continue to rebound and hit a few more shots. Brissett and him spoke before their Orange debut about focusing on sealing up the boards. It’s all new right now.

“Get comfortable,” Howard said of these opening games. “Under those lights. Around the fans. The young guys are kind of upset about missing shots in the beginning. It comes with it. It's a new journey. New zone."