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Senior point guard Frank Howard brings Syracuse basketball back in the trenches after Ohio State win

Trench work.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus, OH — While sitting out the first four games of the Syracuse Orange basketball season, senior point guard Frank Howard watched helplessly from the bench. His team handled the first two games at home without him but still looked out of sync on the court early which is somewhat natural for most teams.

Syracuse then headed down to Madison Square Garden for the 2K Classic where Howard was set to play until he came down with a sickness and took his spot on the bench while watching his team go 0-2 in NYC. In those two games Syracuse struggled to get stops on the defensive end and the shooting on the offensive end was abysmal.

Howard made his return against Colgate where he played just 19 minutes but had a solid 5 assists, no turnovers and 3 steals before revealing he had surgery on his left ankle and estimated he was still only at 60-70 percent to Donna Ditota. While there wasn’t too much to draw from Howard’s return in that game, he had an important showing last night against Ohio State. While he had just 8 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist, he played solid defense and found his teammates for open shots. He could have had a few more assists had his teammates made shots, but perhaps what’s most important is his senior leadership at the point and the energy he brings.

He’s still not 100 percent, as evidenced by him not getting all the way to the rim against Ohio State.

After the game last night Howard said, “I feel good today. I took a big step today, got a little closer to the basket. I’m still working on getting those cuts and taking that contact and finishing at the rim. Some of those jumpshots I really didn’t want to take but I just didn’t feel comfortable. Each day I’m working hard and it’ll probably be another week or two before I’m really back.”

Still, he was able to play mostly solid defense. The length and leadership between he and Tyus Battle make a world of difference. Last night, Syracuse held Ohio State to just 32.6 percent shooting overall and 27.3 percent from range. It was a team effort, but Howard and Battle are key at 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-6 up top. Syracuse also shot its best percentage from deep (45.8 percent) last night on the road. Others have taken notice.

While it might not be totally fair to give credit to Howard for the entire Syracuse team shooting well, he did have an impact on defense.

When the zone is playing like it did yesterday, you’re ‘in the trenches’ as Howard likes to say. Howard’s leadership and the court presence was missed, but now he’s back, The Orange moved to 2-0 with him in the fold and Syracuse is digging in those trenches once more.

“That’s us. You know that’s us. That’s what we’re hanging our hat on,” He said before pausing. “Yeah we back in the trenches. You saw that.”

Coming out every time.

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