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Bourama Sidibe’s presence essential in Syracuse’s win over Colgate

The big man will be important for SU on both ends this year.

NCAA Basketball: Colgate at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse Orange men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim praised the perfomances of guards Joe Girard III and Buddy Boeheim following Wednesday night’s win over Colgate, but most encouraging was the play of junior center Bourama Sidibe.

“The difference was Bourama was active down low,” Coach Boeheim said. “He finished around the basket. We looked for him better. I thought he really played well.”

Against Virginia last week, Sidibe’s impact was minimal. In 22 minutes, he had two points, two rebounds, one steal, one turnover, and four personal fouls. But in 27 minutes against Colgate, Sidibe scored 12 points and recorded 14 rebounds, one block, two turnovers, and three personal fouls. He made all six of his field goal attempts (although he missed both of his free throws).

It was his third career double-double. The other two came in wins against Colgate last year and at Pittsburgh during his freshman season.

Sidibe’s rebounding was important for an Orange squad that Virginia handled 47-28 on the glass last week. With his help, the Orange outrebounded the Raiders 42-31. After the game, Sidibe said that rebounding is what Coach Boeheim expects most of him and is what he must do to stay in the game.

“That’s what he’s looking for,” he said. “It doesn’t change if I score five or six points.”

Because Sidibe’s scoring is limited to the paint, his positioning and movement down low are necessary to his already limited opportunities to score on a perimeter-oriented team. He said the coaching staff doesn’t want to see him just standing around on offense.

Against Colgate, Sidibe said his teammates were trying to find him at the beginning of the game even when he wasn’t open, so he realized he had to make himself available.

“A couple guys on the team—they told me, like, I just gotta do my thing. … And they will find a way to find me,” he said.

Sidibe’s scoring inside was also aided by efficient shooting from Elijah Hughes and Buddy Boeheim. Hughes, who finished with eight assists, said that he was going with the flow of the game, and after Boeheim got hot early, he tried to get into the paint and look for Sidibe there.

Four times, Sidibe’s positioning got him a pass from a teammate that he then converted into two points. Marek Dolezaj and Hughes each got an assist on a pass to Sidibe for a quick lay-in. But twice, Sidibe received an entry pass, once in the paint and another on the baseline just outside the lane, and backed into his defender, pivoting his way to a layup.

“The big guys were hedging a little more [on screens] tonight… [S]o that dump-down was there a couple times,” said the younger Boeheim. “We got Bourama in the post, and he was able to finish and rebound it very well.”

Sidibe’s other two scores came on a tip-in after a Boeheim miss, and an alley-oop in transition from Joe Girard III that made the Dome crowd erupt.

For Sidibe, who said he’s still not 100% back from his knees injuries, the hope is that he can reliably contribute from the center spot, a position that the Orange have lacked consistency from since Rakeem Christmas in 2014-15.

“I just got to keep playing,” he said. “You know, things happen sometimes. Every day is not going to be perfect, but I’m just going to keep playing and make sure I play better defense, and that might translate to better offense.”