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Syracuse shooting the three: get used to it

Friday night was the season opener for the 2015-2016 Syracuse Men's Basketball Team. This year's campaign began against Lehigh in the Carrier Dome, and seemed to be a continuation of what we had seen in the two exhibitions leading up to the real deal: Syracuse will shoot more threes than you think they should. We'll get to that in a minute. The first half of this game was dominated by Syracuse, who shot decent enough on the offensive end of the court, but really played active, shut it down defense at the other end. In the second half, the defense let up a bit, and the offense sputtered at times, but the Syracuse lead never shrunk to fewer than six. At the final horn, Syracuse emerged victorious 57-47.

  • Senior leader Michael Gbinije lived up to his role and led the team in scoring with 16 points on 5-13 shooting, 2-9 from three, and 4-5 from the line. He also ran the point for much of the game. I'd have to check to see if he shot better when he moved to forward for parts of the game, but ball movement and shooting looks were good while he ran the offense.
  • Call it hard word, call it playing with a chip on his shoulder, call it whatever you want, but Kaleb Joseph played 14 minutes and did some good things with it. Eight points on 2 of 3 shooting (all from three), a perfect 2-2 from the line, and an assist and a steal. The lineup with Kaleb running the point is quite small, so you won't see it often, but if he can keep up quality play like that, you'll appreciate the minutes he does end up getting.
  • In his college debut, Malachi Richardson played well: 14 points on 5-12 from the floor including 4-9 from three, He pulled down six rebounds and came up with three steals, but turned the ball over five times. His game's far from perfect, but he's got raw talent and you have to be excited about where he could take this team.
  • One of the biggest questions I had going into this season is how this team would adjust -- particularly offensively -- without Rakeem Christmas? And would DaJuan Coleman help fill that void? The answers seem to be by shooting threes and not really, respectively. Syracuse had virtually no inside game to speak of. Ten points in the paint. Shooters were getting open and taking good shots -- and making 32.4% of them from beyond the arc. That's good enough against Lehigh, evidently, but it won't be good enough against a better defense or a better offense. The Orange will have to establish an inside game so that there are other scoring options, particularly if the shooters are having a bad night; plus, the existence of an inside threat helps open up the shooters. I tweeted it during the game and I feel this will be the thing to really look at: offensive balance is key.
  • Back to Coleman... he only played 13 minutes due to foul trouble and overall ineffectiveness. I imagine he's still kicking off quite a bit of rust, so he's getting the benefit of the doubt for the next several weeks. But certainly come conference time, he needs to be back. In the meantime, Chino Obokoh and Tyler Lydon will get a lot of time at the center of the zone. Friday night, Tyler showed us why he might be one of the more underrated freshman on this team, if not the conference or country. The kid can play! Though his offense wasn't anything fancy, he played really active on defense, with a couple of blocks, three steals, eight rebounds (eleven total), and a presence on the floor you won't see a stat line for. He's gonna become a lot of fans' favorite player as his career at Syracuse continues.
  • Lehigh shot nine percent in the first half. A better second half brought the total game shooting up to 28.8%. 
All things considered, a very acceptable season opener. There were some bright spots, and some things to work on, but a win is a win. The team does have some great shooters, so if they're all on for a given game, there could be some obscene scores. If you want someone smarter than me to recap things for you, check out Coach Boeheim's postgame presser here.

Up next for the Orange is a Tuesday night tilt against longtime (but not so much recently) rival St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies. My brother's school. Brian will have that preview shortly.

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