The Syracuse Orange season got off to a good start with a 90-72 victory over the Lehigh Mountain Hawks Monday night. An 18-point (44-26) lead at the half held firm out of the locker room, and eleven of the twelve Syracuse players who saw the court put up points. The team as a whole shot 54.5% (30/55) overall, 50% (6/12), and over 75% (24/31) at the line. That’ll play.
The Mountain Hawks drew first blood but Jesse Edwards was quick to counterattack and drop in a layup for the first SU points of the young season.
We’re used to seeing the offense run through Jesse, but unlike most of those nights, he was the leading scorer in the 1st half. Instead of setting up guys outside, it was Edwards who kept finding himself with all kinds of space underneath the basket, and he was all too eager to oblige with five booming slam dunks. #14 would tally 14 points in the first half and 18 overall, along with 11 rebounds. And the icing on the cake? Just one foul.
Both of the prime SU scorers had promising performances. Judah Mintz looked a lot more comfortable up at the 1 than he did in the preseason. After whiffing on an open look early on, he proceeded to hit his next four shots. Unlike the preseason where Judah looked to be too aggressive and wanted to take everything himself, he was much more intentional with his shot selection and the patience paid off. He finished 6/9 on FGs and totaled 16 points.
Joe Girard also got hot, especially from outside the arc. JGIII racked up 4/6 threes to the tune of a team-best 19-point night. He was also a perfect 5/5 at the line and looked very relaxed in all his FT attempts - something to keep an eye on after he was just as automatic in the preseason.
Symir Torrence led the secondary scoring with 10 points off the bench, including one deep three and a pair of spin-o-rama baskets: one a jumper, and the other a layup. He also contributed six rebounds and three assists on the night.
Chris Bell found himself pulled from the game less than a minute in, but Jim Boeheim allowed him back into the game, he ended up making one of his two deep shots. Justin Taylor had a rough start, shooting 0/5 before finally landing a jumper with around 5 minutes to go in the game. Quadir Copeland followed that up with his own jumper on his first career shot attempt, and he also made another shot in the closing seconds.
Benny Williams had a quiet day with just two points on five shots.
Mounir Hima is looking like a good pickup early on, covering for Jesse and displaying some much-needed physicality on the back end. At one point in the first half, he had a pair of booming jump blocks on back-to-back shot attempts
Jon Bol Ajak even got involved with three late points. The only Orange player held off the scoresheet in the opener was Peter Carey.
Some minor complains I have are with the current style of play. The half-court offense generated a lot of fast break opportunities, but also gave Lehigh the same quality chances on the other end. If it wasn’t for SU’s size advantage, they’d probably be regretting more of those quick transitions.
The man-to-man defense also looks a little suspect at the moment, but it’s still very early in the season. I’ll reserve judgement on that for a few more weeks.
The Orange are back in the Dome next Tuesday at 7 to host in-state rival Colgate. The Raiders snapped their long losing streak against SU last season.