The Syracuse Orange have really relied on their “big three” of Frank Howard, Tyus Battle, and Oshae Brissett to score. Seriously, it’s nearly 50 of the 70 points they average per game from those three dynamic scorers. So when one, or even all three of them are off their game, you can bet the Orange will struggle to score enough to win.
This past Saturday, the Orange ran into this issue against the Pittsburgh Panthers, who were able to hold the “big three” to a combined 29 points on 11-of-36 shooting. With the go-to scorers struggling for the Orange, a much needed road ACC win was starting to slip away—then came Bourama Sidibe.
The freshman forward has been limited all year long due to injury, but with Paschal Chukwu struggling to play to coach Jim Boeheim’s standards on Saturday, Sidibe was inserted to man the paint— and he ended up dominating. Sidibe hadn’t played more than 17 minutes since December 2, but he used all 31 minutes of his minutes vs. Pitt to show he could be a legit force in the ACC when healthy.
Sidibe finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds to give him his first career double double in orange. He also picked up three blocks that helped Syracuse keep their lead late against the penetrating Panthers.
The 6’10” forward isn’t quite known for his offensive arsenal, but he used his craftiness around the rim to help him find the right spot on the backboard. Unlike Chukwu, Sidibe is skilled enough with his left hand to finish down low which really helps the Orange off of pick and roll sets and on second chance opportunities.
Syracuse loves to run the pick and roll, but with Chukwu’s limited offensive game, the Orange have had trouble finding any easy looks inside off of the roll. However, with Sidibe setting the screen, the opposing team has to worry about not only the dynamic ball handler, but Sidibe’s ability to score around the rim too.
While Sidibe made most of his noise on offense, the dynamic defensive threat did what he does best too: protect the rim. With the Panthers looking to find a way back in the game, Sidibe needed to make sure he was able to protect the rim if the Orange wanted to keep their lead. By going straight up, Sidibe and his frontcourt mate Marek Dolezaj were able to prevent the Panthers from finding any easy looks inside.
With the lack of depth on this team, the Orange need a healthy Sidibe to dominate like he did against Pittsburgh. The Orange know they can get points from their perimeter players, but getting points from their frontcourt inside will take this team to the next step.
Sidibe isn’t going to give the Orange 18 and 16 every night, but his ability to use his size on both ends of the court gives them a viable threat from a big man. Sidibe and the Orange still have a long way to go, but the freshman’s performance on Saturday is a sign of good things to come this year, and in the future.