The Syracuse Men’s Basketball team cruised past Cornell Friday night in the Dome after putting together a 50 point second half en route to an 82-60 victory marking the first win for Syracuse as an official member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Lead by redshirt sophomore Trevor Cooney’s hot shooting and the tenacious 2-3 zone, Syracuse willed itself to victory in front of 25,000 anxious fans.
Despite winning pretty steadily, thanks in part to the second half tear, there are a few lessons to be learned from the home opener. Here are a few takeaways from Friday’s game.
There is No Leader
Although it is widely regarded that the a senior has to be the leader and set examples while propelling his team to victory, Syracuse’s two seniors, C.J. Fair and Baye Moussa Kieta, do not seem to be willing to fill the role.
I know it has only been one game and Fair and Kieta might develop into very successful leaders for the Orange, what they showed on Friday night however, does not indicate such switch.
(photo by associated press)
Fair, who scored 19 points and grabbed three rebounds, has always been the one to fly under the radar while still putting up big numbers. He could score 25 points in the first half and still go unnoticed by the opposing defense. Fair has the ability to switch from a player who can score at will to a player who knows when to give up the ball.
The way he plays within himself and seems to just simply get the job done makes Fair unable to be a leader. Although, Fair is a great player, ranked the 11th best player in the NCAA by C.J. Moore of Bleacher Report, I do not think he would make a great team leader.
We witnessed this last night as he forced to many shots and turned the ball over seven times while trying to push the team to victory. Fair seems to play better when he finds wholes instead of making his own plays and leading the team.
Baye Moussa Kieta is a different story. The 6’10’’ center from Senegal is not known for his basketball tremendous skills, he only has five double-digit scoring games in his career, as he has anchored the zone for the past three years.
His length and tenacity on defense make Kieta a threat only because he can block (sometimes) and grab rebounds. While being very vocal on defense, because he has to be, Kieta’s is lacking in basketball IQ to be any type of leader for the Orange.
Look for Tyler Ennis or Jerami Grant to lead the team during the stretch when it will be imperative for Syracuse to have a vocal and out spoken player to step up and grab the reigns.
Cooney Can Shoot
Average or below average shooters do not score 27 points on seven of eight shooting from three. Despite starting his Syracuse career off very poorly, Trevor Cooney is starting to come into his own.
What Cooney showed Friday night is confidence. Confidence in himself and confidence in his team. He was able to score off screens, on fast breaks and even showed his jumping ability with his dunk in the second half.
(photo by associated press)
Despite all of that, the thing that impressed me the most about Cooney’s performance last night was his quick release, something that only showed up a few times last year.
Recruited as a great sharpshooter out of high school, Cooney came into his redshirt freshman with a lot of hype and speculation revolving around his game. Unfortunately he did not live up to all the expectations last year, causing many to doubt his ability to compete at a high level.
However, the start of the 2013-14 season is a new page for Cooney. No longer in the shadows of Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche, he can flourish and make a name for himself. Cooney demonstrated a soft touch and quick release from the outside, reminding many Orange fans of Andy Rautins and others.
The play that showed his true potential was his second three during the first quarter of Friday night’s game. Cooney came off a screen and hoisted a shot, just out of the reach the defender, which arched straight into the bottom of the net.
Cooney’s sharpshooting ability and determination to make a name for himself, will help him lead the Orange throughout the season. Although it was only one game, look for Cooney to continue to develop as a shooter and continue to score at will.
The Big Men Need to Step Up
DaJuan Coleman, Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Kieta are important pieces to the Syracuse puzzle. They provide length, strength and grit in the middle of the zone while Christmas provides a strong offensive option.
(photo by associated press)
Despite Christmas, who seems to be developing into a strong, self confident power forward, the SU big men need to pick up their game if the Orange want to be successful in the ACC. Although, the ACC may be seen as a league full of guards and small forwards, there are plenty of teams that will exploit a weak frontcourt without any hesitation.
Christmas showed us on Friday his athleticism and scoring ability, 12 points on four of five shooting, while his defense may need some more fine-tuning, he is becoming the forward Syracuse expected to see after recruiting him.
Kieta and Coleman on the other hand look to be pretty similar to what we saw last year. Kieta is lengthy and tall but his athleticism is lacking, making him unable to stay with stronger and more athletic opponents.
Coleman is on the smaller side, standing at 6’9’’, but has more strength than Kieta. Coleman has yet to showcase any real skillset for the Orange, as he remains the patented Boeheim starter who ‘gets pulled after five minutes of play’. His productivity on offense and defense need to improve in order to stay in the game for longer periods of time.
With Christmas bringing his game to a higher level, it is time for Kieta or Coleman to step up and fill in the center position of the zone because with out them, the zone falls to pieces.
Kieta Can Dunk
During Syracuse’s rally early in the second half; Michael Gbinije stole a pass intended for Cornell’s Devin Cherry then drove towards the basket. Releasing a shot that rebounded off the top of the backboard, Gbinije could only look back as the unthinkable happened.
That’s when Baye Moussa Kieta (shocking I know) stepped in and cleaned up the freshmen’s miss. Throwing down a dunk that landed him on Sports Center, Kieta pounded his chest and screamed with enthusiasm. Hopefully the season is filled with Kieta dunks like this.
Next Game: vs. Fordham, Tuesday, Nov. 12th at 7:30 p.m.
Syracuse Stats Leaders (through one game):
PPG: Trevor Cooney, 27.0
RPG: Tyler Ennis, 8.0
APG: Tyler Ennis, 7.0
SPG: Trevor Cooney, 4.0
BPG: B.J. Johnson, 2.0
FG %: Trevor Cooney, .883
3P %: Michael Gbinije, 1.000