Experimentation can be a messy, awkward thing, but when it comes to college basketball coaches have to love the chance to tinker on things they rarely get to work on in live games. That’s exactly the opportunity Jim Boeheim and his Syracuse team was given tonight as they rolled past Binghamton 93-65 to stay unbeaten at 9-0 on the year.
After falling in an early 11-3 hole the Orange used an 18-0 run to regain control and never looked back, using a rarely seen full court press to harass Binghamton into numerous turnovers and create easy shots going the other way. That trapping press was one of the big stories of the game, as Syracuse is known as simply a 2-3 zone team and Boeheim is notoriously stubborn about his defense. After a scary game against St. Francis (NY) that the Orange very nearly lost, he was asked why he didn’t press to force the tempo and his answer was, simply, because his team is an awful pressing team.
Thanks to the fact that his team’s three pointers were falling and Binghamton is a shaky ballhandling team, the Orange got plenty of chances to improve their full court defense while also giving rarely used freshmen B.J. Johnson, Tyler Roberson, and Ron Patterson extended minutes for the first time since before the team played in the Maui Invitational. At the end of the day, the game felt a lot more like a preseason scrimmage than an official game, and from time to time it looked that way with some sloppy play by both teams.
Don’t let the final score fool you, Syracuse had its share of shaky moments. The team defense left something to be desired whenever Binghamton could actually hang onto the ball. Jordan Reed torched Syracuse for 26 points, and if not for a barrage of three pointers the game may have taken on a different look, particularly with Tyler Ennis in foul trouble for virtually the entire game.
At the same time there were plenty of positives even in such a big blowout, like the continued hot shooting of Trevor Cooney. The sophomore drilled five three-pointers and scored 17 points, and C.J. Fair broke out of a bit of a three-point shooting slump as he knocked down three triples on his way to 19 points. The Orange also got an outstanding all-around game from Jerami Grant, who scored 14 points, grabbed five rebounds, and handed out a career-high five assists. In addition, Michael Gbinije and Patterson were more than adequate helping to fill in for Ennis, who spent a good portion of the game on the bench.
What does it all boil down to? Not much, really? We didn’t learn anything about Syracuse that we didn’t really know already, as Binghamton simply doesn’t have the talent to provide much of a challenge. However, getting the in-game opportunity to work on the press and play the reserves can only help as the season rolls along.