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Recapping the Syracuse men’s basketball season at the midpoint

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Call it the Sparknotes version of the season so far

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team is about 40 percent of the way through the season as we enter the New Year. As we wait for competition to pick back up against Notre Dame on January 5, let’s look back on how the team got to where it is:

September 14: Frank Howard injures lower leg in preseason practice

The injury was to Frank Howard’s lower leg. For a while, media and fans alike were left in the dark about the details of the injury. Howard’s original timetable had him pegged to return before the first game of the season. We later learned that Howard had surgery to help repair his ankle.

October 12: Jalen Carey sprains ankle in Orange-White scrimmage

Jalen Carey was helped off the floor after spraining his ankle during the team’s intra-squad scrimmage that was part of Basketball Fan Appreciation Weekend. The ankle injury was serious, Carey told Syracuse.com’s Donna Ditota, and it held him out of preseason practices and Syracuse’s two exhibition games.

Late October: Pre-season rankings and awards

Syracuse was ranked No. 16 in the AP preseason rankings for the 2018-2019 season. Tyus Battle’s name also appeared in the “others receiving votes” category of the AP Preseason All-American team. Battle was also named Preseason All-ACC First Team and received the fourth-most votes for ACC Preseason Player of the Year.

NCAA Basketball: Old Dominion at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Early November: Syracuse cruising

16th-ranked Syracuse rolled through its two exhibition matchups without Frank Howard, Jalen Carey and Howard Washington.

Carey and Washington returned to action for Syracuse and made quick work of Eastern Washington, 66-34. The Orange followed up its win with a sloppy performance against Morehead State which ultimately resulted in a 84-70 win.

Tyus Battle was playing out of position as he was shouldering primary point guard duties as Frank Howard remained sidelined. Oshae Brissett was dominating and we were seeing flashes of brilliance out of Elijah Hughes.

Record: 2-0

November 15 and 16: Syracuse drops two games at MSG

Still without senior point guard Frank Howard, the 15th-ranked Orange were lit up from behind the arc as it dropped its opening matchup of the 2k Empire Classic to UConn, 83-76. After a few ugly turnovers, Jalen Carey poured in 26. Syracuse dropped to 2-1 on the season.

Syracuse lost to 13th-ranked Oregon the next afternoon, 80-65. Bol Bol dominated the Orange to the tune of 26 points, 9 boards and 4 blocks and Syracuse could not recover from its 13-point halftime deficit.

Jalen Carey earned ACC freshman of the week honors for his combined 40 points, 10 rebounds and 6 steals. Syracuse would fall out of the AP top-25 after its trip to New York City.

It wasn’t time to panic, however. Playing without its senior leader, Syracuse lost to two respectable opponents and had the rest of non-conference schedule to find its footing.

Record: 2-2

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Syracuse Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

November 21: Frank Howard returns in win over Colgate

After practicing the entire week following the two-game skid, Frank Howard returned to action for Syracuse.

Syracuse took care of respectable Colgate team, 77-56. Howard started the game and totaled 3 points and 5 assists in 19 minutes.

Record: 4-2

November 28: Syracuse picks up a big road win at Ohio State

The Orange went on the road and knocked off 16th-ranked Ohio State, 72-62. The win marked the team’s first resume-booster of the season and it seemed that Syracuse had turned the page on the early-season woes.

This game may ultimately be remembered for the 28 fouls called against Syracuse. Frank Howard, Bourama Sidibe and Marek Dolezaj each fouled out while Paschal Chukwu ended with four and three more players finished with three.

The Frank Howard watch continued as he scored 8 points in 24 minutes, but still lacked pre-injury aggressiveness and explosiveness.

This win marked Syracuse’s first non-conference road win against a ranked opponent since 2008.

Record: 5-2

First week of December: Syracuse rolling again

In the Battle of the Boeheims against Cornell, Syracuse came away with a 63-55 win. It was a sloppy game for the Orange and Matt Morgan couldn’t miss for the Big Red. He held the game tight with his 26 points before Syracuse pulled away in the final minutes.

Tyus Battle was named ACC Player of the Week after scoring 20 against Ohio State and 26 against Cornell.

The team then breezed past an out-matched Northeastern squad and extended its winning streak to four games.

Record: 6-2

December 8: Tyus Battle’s heroics lift Syracuse over Georgetown

Syracuse struggled mightily in the first half before clawing back to edge the Hoyas, 72-71. Down one with 36.3 seconds remaining, coach Jim Boeheim made the gutsy decision not to foul. The gamble paid off as Marek Dolezaj drew a charge and Tyus Battle nailed the game-winner on the other end. The victory grew Syracuse’s win streak to five games and propelled the Orange back into the AP top-25 a No. 25.

Record: 7-2

December 15 and 18: Two-game skid

Syracuse fumbled away a win at home against Old Dominion. The Monarchs beat the Orange 68-62 after dominating the second half and allowing Syracuse to shoot just 33 percent from the field.

After suffering its third loss of the non-conference slate, some in the media declared Syracuse’s matchup with 14th-ranked Buffalo a “must-win”. (It wasn’t)

Syracuse suffered its second straight loss at the hands of Buffalo, 71-59. The Orange loss was nearly identical to the loss against Old Dominion as the team crumbled in the second half after leading at the break.

Record: 7-4

Rest of December: Syracuse takes care of business

The Orange dominated Arkansas State and St. Bonaventure to close out its non-conference slate. Paschal Chukwu, benched in favor of Marek Dolezaj against Arkansas State, responded by dominating on the class with 13 rebounds in 23 minutes.

We also learned that Howard Washington is seeking a medical redshirt for the 2018-2019 season as he continues to recover from his torn ACL and partially torn MCL.

Record: 9-4

Player averages through non-conference play

Tyus Battle: 18 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 35.3 minutes per game

Elijah Hughes: 14.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 32.2 minutes per game

Oshae Brissett: 13.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2 assists in 32.4 minutes per game

Frank Howard: 5.8 points, 1.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 25 minutes per game

Jalen Carey: 6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 18.8 minutes per game

Paschal Chukwu: 4.1 points and 5.4 rebounds in 18.8 minutes per game

Marek Dolezaj: 3.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 18.8 minutes per game

Bourama Sidibe: 2.9 points and 3.2 rebounds in 11.5 minutes per game

Buddy Boeheim: 4 points, 1.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 12.9 minutes per game

Syracuse will enter ACC play with a 9-4 record. The Orange open conference play on Saturday, January 5 against Notre Dame.

For more Syracuse basketball news and analysis, follow Dylan on twitter @dfines31.