Reports of the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team’s ability to shoot the ball were not greatly exaggerated.
Syracuse shot the lights out of the Carrier Dome to start Jim Boeheim’s 46th season as the Orange looked comfortable opening the season against Lafayette. Syracuse cruised to a 95-61 victory as SU shot 54.4% from the floor and 50% from three.
The player that kickstarted the offense was the elder Boeheim son: Jimmy. He scored the first eight points of the game and set the tempo early on the inside. His interior scoring presence is something Syracuse sorely needs to balance out the outside shooters.
Speaking of the outside shooters, Syracuse’s guard duo of Joe Girard and Buddy Boeheim went to work immediately. They led an Orange charge that saw Syracuse shoot 47.4% from three in the first half. Girard in particular didn’t miss a three in the first 20 minutes and stayed perfect, going 5-5 from distance. His confidence offensively looks a lot difference than his somewhat timid playstyle last season. Girard led all scorers with 20 points.
And if there was any question as to who the Orange would play through on offense, the clear answer is Buddy Boeheim. He attempted the most shots and threes throughout the game as he finished with 18 points. There’s a reason the younger Boeheim was named to so many national player of the year watchlists - he’ll be called on to spark the offense. At one point the Boeheim brothers were outscoring Lafayette.
Something that lacked for Syracuse also towards the end of last season was ball movement. The Orange assisted 26 of their 37 field goals. The assist numbers for Syracuse dropped towards the end of the season as the offense transitioned to more isolation ball. Passing the rock continues to be incredibly important for Syracuse.
One of the biggest concern for fans was the defense for Syracuse, especially with so many new players in the zone. Fortunately for ‘Cuse fans, the Orange defense passed its first test. Syracuse held Lafayette to 34.3% shooting as the Leopards struggled to find any rhythm in the halfcourt set.
I say the halfcourt set looked good for the Syracuse defense because the transition defense left a little bit to be desired. The Orange allowed 18 fastbreak points and Syracuse players got caught celebrating baskets a few too many times.
Fans were excited for Cole Swider, but the sharpshooter had a rough start to the game, with only three points in the first half. But he turned it on in the second half to score 11 points in the final 20 minutes to earn a double-double with 12 rebounds. It goes to show that the Syracuse shooters aren’t going to be scared to shoot, even if they start a game slow.
Speaking of rebounding, Syracuse absolutely dominated the glass against Lafayette. The Orange outrebounded the Leopards 48-30 . That’s a good sign considering that some weaker non-ACC teams hung close and sometimes outrebounded Syracuse last season.
Overall, positive first signs for an Orange squad that needs those good signs after the roster turnover. With key players leaving, the new players such as Jimmy Boeheim and Cole Swider showed enough promise and potential that the key losses from last year’s roster should be mitigated to a good degree.
The Orange tune-ups are going well before the first true test: the Bahamas.