0 Comments Published on 12.13.2009 by John Brennan
Coach Hopkins tells Mookie to shut the F^@# up. Scoop looks on, having heard this before.
So this is how it's gonna be now? Syracuse can play amazingly against the likes of California, North Carolina, and Florida, and yet totally play down to a team like St. Francis? If so, maybe it's a good thing the Big East is so good. That should keep this team playing at a high level.
Of course, I'm exaggerating quite a bit. After all, this team handled cupcakes like Albany, Robert Morris, Colgate, etc. with ease and domination. But this afternoon, the crew seemed to have forgotten about that. The 24-point victory over the St. Francis (NY) Terriers, 75-51, is a bit deceiving. This game was a lot closer, and especially in the first half, many Syracuse fans had their hearts beating a bit faster than usual.
The Orangemen got off to a rather slow start. Were they still tired from playing Florida on Thursday? Did the traveling have a negative impact on the players? Did they entirely underestimate the Terriers? Could be any of these things. But early on, St. Francis was able to slice apart the Syracuse 2-3 zone, which was impressive given the obvious size advantage in favor of the Orange. To their credit, they were often times able to pull Rick Jackson out of position and find a lane to the basket. Though St. Francis only held the lead once, their ability to penetrate the zone kept this game a lot closer in the first half than it should have been.
Leading all scorers was Terrier Akeem Bennett with 15 points. He also pulled down 10 rebounds for a nice little double-double. Leading the way for the Orange was Arinze Onuaku, who netted 14 points. While Thursday against Florida belonged to Rick Jackson, today's matchup was clearly AO's to take home. Towering over the middle of the St. Francis defense, Arinze was able to take lob passes and lay it into the basket. He was like that kid in middle school who got the growth spurt before everyone else, and just towered over them in gym class. Arinze also pulled down three rebounds and had two blocks on the day.
In 27 minutes of play, Wes Johnson again was a quiet but consistent presence, adding 12 points, nine rebounds, four blocks, three steals, and two assists. While Scoop Jardine only scored three points in 21 minutes of play, he dished the ball around well, closing with nine assists. Kris Joseph continued to impress, with seven points and seven assists in 22 minutes. In all, 10 Orangemen saw playing time (much of it significant minutes) with all 10 scoring. And yet, we get Mookie Jones bitching about his playing time. After not seeing any action against Florida, Mookie clocks 21 minutes against the Terriers, and has the audacity to complain about it after the game:
“I wish I knew my role,’’ Jones said. “I’m always ready. I really don’t know my role. I hope we find it by the time the Big East gets here. I just want to contribute. It’s kind of hard. You sit down one game and then you come in the next game.’’
Um, correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't he around last year? Doesn't he know how this works? Doesn't he see that he's 8th in the rotation and that there are 7 players better than him on this team? Now, I've been giddy all year about how deep this team is and how, seemingly, Jim Boeheim can put any combination of five guys out on the floor and they have great chemistry and can get it done. And I still believe that. But you look around to any team playing a Top-15 team and tell me how many minutes the 8th man gets in that game. It just doesn't happen much. My fellow Syracuse tweeters got this right: if Mookie wants more playing time, he should show us he knows how to play defense.
And sort of in the same vein, it should be mentioned that pretty early into this game, Boeheim ordered the team to press, and by and large stayed with that through the rest of the game. Pressure is difficult for a team that plays zone, because once the offense clears the ball out, the defense has to fall back into the 2-3. I don't think Mookie quite has the maturity and athleticism to perform at that level. Yet. He needs to just stick with it, and his time will come. This kid just needs some perspective, and to realize this isn't about him. If he thinks it's about him, then I'm not willing to give him another mulligan after storming into the locker room a couple weeks ago. He can go take a hike.
But back to this game against St. Francis. I think Syracuse got lucky that it was facing a team like this when they did. Coming into this game, the Terriers were not overwhelming on offense, and this game was no different. Had Syracuse been playing a team that shot better than 29.3% from the field, then this one would have been a lot closer, and may have even turned out differently. But hey, a win is a win, and Syracuse at 10-0 is off to its best start since the 1999-2000 season when they won their first 19 games.
One Catholic school down, one more to go this week. St. Bonaventure comes to the Dome Saturday night, which should put Syracuse one step closer to winning the Governor's Cup and really become NY's College Team. Even David Paterson likes what he sees! The Bonnies game will also bring my brother, Andy, to the Syracuse campus, no doubt wearing some ugly brown shirt and drowning in his sorrows.