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Three takeaways from Syracuse basketball’s season opener vs. Lehigh

Syracuse handled Lehigh to start the season 1-0.

NCAA Basketball: Lehigh at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The 121st season in Syracuse Orange men’s basketball history began with a victory as Jim Boeheim officially earned win 999 (read: 1,100). Syracuse handled Lehigh inside the JMA Wireless Dome by a final score of 90-72.

The seniors and Judah Mintz paced Syracuse in the season opener. After making his 92nd straight start, Joe Girard led the way with 19 points on 4-6 shooting from outside. Jesse Edwards recorded the third double-double of his career, finishing with 18 points and 11 rebounds while Symir Torrence provided solid minutes off the bench with 10 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.

Mintz, in his freshman debut, scored 16 points and dished out 3 assists with 3 turnovers as starting point guard. All 12 scholarship players saw time and 11 scored as Syracuse was able to sit Girard and Edwards during the final stretch.

To the takeaways.

Edwards established

With an all-conference caliber talent down low, it’s of little surprise that Syracuse would look to establish Jesse Edwards in this game, especially in the early going. Most of his scoring is coming off of rolls on screens or dives to the rim rather than low-post touches, but Edwards had success in this game around the tin. He made his first four shots by getting easy dunks, but he also drew five first half fouls and made his free throws (8-10).

We know Edwards is good, but just how good can he be? He’s alert when getting the ball in the low-post, as evidenced by a quick touch pass to Maliq Brown in the second half when the double game. But can he be a low-post scoring threat when gets the ball down low? Syracuse will look to establish him offensively and he’s still just scratching the surface.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional Practice Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse goes 2-3 zone with mantoman principles

It’s true.

Syracuse basketball started the season in man-to-man defense and stayed in it for most of the game. The Orange defense lapsed at various points to start as Lehigh jumped out to an early 9-4 lead. The Mountain Hawks stayed with Syracuse for the first 12 minutes of action as the defense struggled to get stops.

Whether due to scheme or a better defensive unit, Syracuse switched to its traditional 2-3 zone to end the half and had better success. Torrence provided good minutes at backup point guard and assisted in the rebounding department. Mounir Hima replaced Edwards at around the five minute mark and made his presence felt, grabbing a pair of rebounds and blocking two shots on one possession. Syracuse closed the half on a 15-2 run while in the zone and extended the lead to 18 at the break.

The second half mirrored the first in that Syracuse played mostly man with the starting group. With a large lead and the second group in with Torrence, Hima, Brown, Justin Taylor and Quadir Copeland, Boeheim went zone and stayed in it to close the game as Peter Carey and John Bol Ajak played the final four minutes.

Whether Syracuse sticks to man with the starters and zone with the bench, or not, will be something to monitor moving forward.

Hima as backup center

Hima looks to be the backup center behind Edwards. He gave solid first half minutes by scoring a bucket, blocking two shots and grabbing a pair of rebounds. If Edwards is able to stay out of foul trouble there won’t be too many minutes to go around. But either way, Hima looks the part of a Syracuse center with his 7-foot-8 wingspan — not exactly a bad fit for the zone.

Freshman center Peter Carey saw the floor for the first time with just over four minutes to play in the game. He blocked a shot and grabbed a rebound.