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Three takeaways from Syracuse basketball’s 85-84 win over Bryant

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Everybody knows the rules to the game in November: Survive and advance.

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

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team just scraped by Bryant in the season opener, edging the Bulldogs 85-84 inside the Carrier Dome. After a missed Syracuse free throw, Bryant had two looks at potential game-winning shots, but missed and time expired.

If you remember, Syracuse lost last year’s season opener to Virginia but circumstances surrounding the games were quite different. Syracuse was put on pause leading up to the game as Jim Boeheim and another team member tested positive for COVID-19. It was announced on Nov. 15. As a result, Syracuse was only able to get one practice in — a Thanksgiving morning practice in the dome — prior to the Bryant game.

Despite being a big favorite, the Syracuse defense struggled mightily against Bryant and failed to shutdown Jared Grasso’s perimeter attack.

With that, we get to the takeaways.

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

Dismal Defense

The story in this game was Syracuse’s defense, or lack thereof. The Orange finished No. 116 in KenPom defensive efficiency last season and knew it would have to improve in 2020-21.

Bryant came into the game unabashed and connected on eight first half 3s on 47.0 percent shooting from outside. Boeheim mixed in the press early and had marginal success, but Syracuse couldn’t slow the Bryant attack and went into the locker room trailing 51-44. The Bulldogs cooled off in the second half but still managed to put up 84 points. It also outscored Syracuse in the paint 32-26.

Let’s give Syracuse the benefit of the doubt before jumping to conclusions as it’s still early in the season, but the defense didn’t look good in the season opener. Again, Syracuse had only practiced once in the last two weeks so let’s wait and see how Syracuse improves in practice. The jury is still out.

Man(less) in the middle

Senior center Bourama Sidibe started at the five in this game and looked primed for a solid year. That is until he went down in the first half with an injury and did not return for the rest of the game.

Per Matt Park, Sidibe will undergo an MRI on his left leg. If Sidibe’s injury is serious, this leaves an obvious hole to fill at center. Syracuse didn’t really know what it had at backup center coming into the season. Now that picture just gets more murky.

Boeheim elected to play Marek Dolezaj at center before making a substitution at that position, but he did go with Frank Anselem briefly in the first half and played Jesse Edwards sparingly in the second.

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

Homecoming King

On the opposite side, Syracuse native and former Liverpool basketball player Charles Pride came into the dome and had a solid night for Bryant. He finished second on his team in scoring with 15 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. Pride will be a player to follow throughout the college basketball season.

Hats off to the hometown kid.