The Syracuse Orange began the regular season last night against Lehigh in front of a very excited crowd of 21,286. The environment in the Carrier Dome was electric as the Orange took the court for the first time this season. This is what the Syracuse fans had been waiting all summer for. Orange basketball is back.
The game began and freshman guard Malachi Richardson immediately heated up. He hit both of first two shots and the Orange took and early 8-1 lead. Here, however, is where the game changed. This early success by the Orange was followed by bad shooting and defense on both sides. Broken down defensive plays and horrible passes were prevalent in the first half. However, Syracuse was able to take advantage of many of Lehigh’s mistakes and took a 32-12 lead into halftime.
The second half is when Lehigh really picked up the pace. With Malachi Richardson was on the bench due to foul trouble, the Mountain Hawks capitalized on the many Syracuse turnovers and began the second half on an 18-4 run. Senior center DaJuan Coleman struggled with foul trouble and overall play throughout the game which led head coach Jim Boeheim to limit his minutes in the second half. In his place, freshman Tyler Lydon excelled. Lydon’s defense, especially during the second half, was crucial to the Orange’s victory, as he made three key steals and collected eleven boards. The Orange were able to hold off the Mountain Hawks and win 57-47.
While Syracuse did win the game, the Orange showed that they still have a lot of work to do. The biggest concern is the struggles of DaJuan Coleman. So far, Coleman has shown to be incredibly rusty after missing most of the past two seasons with a knee injury. Yes, it is expected that after such a long time away from the game one would need some time to return to full strength, but Coleman showed to be slow on offense and wasn’t battling for rebounds on defense. Coleman hasn’t played well at all this season, even against weaker opponents in Le Moyne and Florida Southern. Jim Boeheim, who is not known for putting up with this type of play, benched Coleman for much of the second half in favor of Chinonso Obokoh and Tyler Lydon. If Coleman wants to keep his starting spot, he needs to play substantially better in the upcoming games.
The defensive play of the Orange was also an issue against Lehigh. Syracuse is known traditionally for its 2-3 zone defense and it usually works well. Yet, it was not executed last night and Lehigh was able to find several holes in the defense, which led to the corner three being wide open the entire game. This breakdown of the defense led to early foul trouble for Syracuse. Overall, the Orange committed a total of 16 fouls throughout the entire game. Lehigh’s leading scorer, Tim Kempton, scored 16 points on just 3-8 shooting, as he was fouled seven times and went 10-13 on free throws. If Syracuse wants to win games against tougher opponents, they cannot commit so many useless foul and give away so many points at the line.
The new Syracuse perimeter offense was in full display last night. In the first half alone, the Orange went 6-20 from behind the arc. In total, they took a combined thirty four three point shots, making only eleven. The Orange need to be more efficient in their perimeter shooting if they want to keep up in the ACC.
Things look bright, however, because of the play of the Syracuse freshmen. Aside from his five turnovers, Malachi Richardson played very well, scoring 14 points and grabbing 6 rebounds. He focused mainly on the three pointer, as four of his five baskets came from behind the arc. Tyler Lydon showed that he has the abilities to be a starter for the Orange. His defensive play and aggression on the boards are something you don’t often see in a 6’9” freshman playing center. If he continues this type of play and DaJuan Coleman continues to struggle, it is entirely possible that Jim Boeheim makes the change.
So, after one game the Orange look rusty, but not terrible. All the mistakes they are making are completely fixable and Jim Boeheim is definitely capable of getting the best out of his players. It was ugly, but a win is a win. The Orange are now preparing for Tuesday night, when they face St. Bonaventure in the Carrier Dome at 7 pm.
Chris Broderick ’18
Stats from Syracuse.com