The one nice thing about having an entire week between games is that you can truly savor a big win. I’d say a 30+ point drubbing of Georgia Tech on the road after three straight losses qualifies.
What a different team this is when we are making shots. It honestly looked like those early makes rejuvenated the Syracuse Orange. That is by far the toughest I’ve seen us play this season. We didn’t get bullied by Georgia Tech’s bigs. We didn’t get out-hustled by their guards. The entire team played with energy.
Let’s hope they can continue that intensity against the Georgetown Hoyas. Even with a depleted roster, the Hoyas present a major challenge to Syracuse basketball. They are physical, they are aggressive, and they aren’t afraid of contact.
Let’s take a look at the five keys to the game against the Hoyas and what to watch for.
1. Hughes hero ball
Elijah Hughes is a man on a mission this year. I fully expected him to settle into a leadership role with this team and be the clear alpha. What I didn’t expect was just how talented he is in all facets of the game.
Hughes is a tremendous athlete. That’s clearly evident every time he outleaps everyone in the building for block or nasty dunk. I was watching some NBA games this week, and I saw eerily familiar weak side blocks as a consistent theme, and there was no gap in athleticism between what I saw and what Elijah has shown this year. I think he has a real shot at a solid pro career after college.
But it’s Hughes playmaking that has really been a catalyst for this team. He has looked sensational with the ball at the top of the key, making great decisions the vast majority of the time. He’s been decisive with the ball, and outside of the Virginia game, hasn’t forced up many bad shots.
We need to see that continue against Georgetown if Syracuse basketball is going to claim a win.
2. Stay aggressive! S-T-A-Y aggressive!
A continuing theme from last week. The team played much more physically and with purpose against Georgia Tech. Props to coach Boeheim and staff, that looked like a completely different team out there on the court.
We need to see that continue against Georgetown. They are a physical team, and with Omer Yurtseven in the middle, they are going to look to beat us on the interior.
That brings me to the next key:
3. Avoid foul trouble
Against Georgia Tech, no one was in serious foul trouble while the game was still in doubt. Quincy Guerrier fouled out, but it didn’t have an impact on the game, and at least two of the fouls called on him were questionable.
If we can avoid getting Bourama Sidibe or Marek Dolezaj into foul trouble early in the game, I think we win this hands down. The path for a Georgetown victory goes directly through our bigs. Both played more under control against Georgia Tech, but even so, Sidibe ended up with four fouls in 28 minutes, and Marek had three of his own.
And obviously, it goes without saying that Elijah needs to avoid foul touble as well. It’s only happened once this year, but this team hasn’t proven they can win without a heavy dose of Hughes.
4. Big game Bourama
I’m going to call it now, I think Bourama Sidibe has a big game. He looked much better against Georgia Tech, and if it weren’t for Hughes and Buddy Boeheim catching fire, I think he would have had a lot more points. Even so, he finished with 5 points, 8 rebounds, a block and 5 steals. Yes, you read that right.
Bourama played great on the defensive end against Georgia Tech, and he’ll need to do the same against Georgetown. Omer Yurtseven is a load on the interior. At 7-foot, 264 lbs, he is a similar player to Luka Garza, who pulverized the Orange a few weeks ago.
I feel like Bourama is turning the corner, and I think he will do a good enough job containing Yurtseven. That’s all we really need. He’s going to score and get rebounds. All we need to do is not let him dominate.
5. Scoring support
Elijah can’t do it all, even if it looked like he could at times against Georgia Tech. We need other consistent scorers to emerge. Buddy Boeheim is the obvious number two option, but we need more safety valves when he isn’t shooting well. Same for Joe Girard. When he’s on, we’re deadly. When he’s off, we’re vulnerable.
So who steps up? To me, it’s got to be Marek Dolezaj. Marek is the glue that holds this team together. He’s shown spurts of offensive prowess. He had 19 points against Seattle and he’s scored 10 or more in three straight games. We need more of that.
Marek needs to look to score more. He’s a very crafty player, and deceptively fast at 6-foot-10. There aren’t many opposing forwards with his footspeed. He’s also an excellent passer and has a solid handle. He has all the tools. Let’s hope he continues to increase his role as the season progresses.
And let’s hope that some of the other guys, like Quincy Guerrier, Howard Washington, and Brycen Goodine continue to get their chance. I think they all bring something unique to the table that could help this team. Even Robert Braswell and Jesse Edwards have shown that they are capable on offense. Somebody in that group needs to step up and contribute against Georgetown if Syracuse basketball wants to win.
Who do you think steps up against Georgetown? Let us know in the comments.