The Syracuse Orange took down Canisius at the Dome Wednesday, an 89-77 victory to hand coach Adrian Autry the second win of his career.
Four players for each team scored in double-digits, and the rebound battle was dead even. Syracuse prevailed, and here’s what you need to know about the game.
Takeaway #1: JJ Starling might be the best player on this team
You read that correctly.
It’s tough to choose the Notre Dame transfer over Judah Mintz, the team’s leading scorer through two games. Yet Starling finds a way to make you second-guess.
Last year with the Fighting Irish, Starling dropped 11.2 PPG while being held to just the third scoring option. The 11-21 Irish stalled on offense. The Syracuse Orange offense plays fast, something Starling does naturally.
Aside from attacking the rim, the 6-2 guard makes an impact on the glass and facilitates better than anyone on the floor. He said after the game that he is “much more cognizant” when cleaning the defensive glass. He was not much of a factor rebounding for Notre Dame, a trait he would like to improve on while wearing orange.
Mintz may have 46 points in two games, but Starling has had much more well-rounded performances in the early going. He is the reason this offense is so good in half-court sets.
Takeaway #2: Shot selection needs improvement
Speaking of the halfcourt, Syracuse is very good at running it.
When the offense slows down and allows the ball to run through center Naheem McLeod in the middle, shots open up on the wings and in the corners. Sophomore guard Justin Taylor has been a catch-and-shoot threat thus far, netting 4-of-9 from beyond the arc through two games. When sophomore Chris Bell is open, he’s one of the team’s better shooters.
The shot selection, though, shows just how young this team is. Too many times does Bell try to shoot out of the triple threat with a hand in his face. While the school’s most famous alumni, Carmelo Anthony, might be on board with that kind of take, Bell should make the extra pass. He also excels at attacking the rim, a better option than a low-percentage take.
It’s not just Bell; Taylor and Mintz are guilty of bad shot selection, too. Through two games, the Syracuse Orange have 12 makes on 40 three-point attempts. 30% is not a bad team shooting percentage by any means, but the makes are wide-open, high-percentage shots. That is exactly what any team wants.
The misses, though, don’t look good. At all.
This team is athletic. Coach Autry has raved about how this team may be the deepest and most athletic team that Syracuse has seen during his time on the staff. He said he wants to play fast, and this team has the potential to be a phenomenal transition team. But it’s time to go back to the film room and see where the team makes their mistakes.
Takeaway #3: It is still WAY too early to tell how Syracuse stacks up
There are some great things brewing in ‘Cuse. We’ve raved about McLeod’s impact (he had FIVE blocks Wednesday night). Starling and Mintz are still the best backcourt tandem in the conference, even after now getting a chance to see them in person. As mentioned here, Taylor has had a hot start to the season.
But the Orange have played two games against low-major schools. And they won both games by a combined 23 points.
Both games are double-digit wins. This is good. But both games also saw Syracuse up by 20 or more. This is troubling.
The man-to-man defense has created a ton of opportunities for Syracuse to jump passing lanes, leading to 13 steals through the two games. But the defense is streaky at times, allowing big runs to get both New Hampshire and Canisius back into the game.
Autry said his team “plays in spurts.” The Orange are yet to play a complete game, and they only have one more game against Colgate to prepare for the Maui Invitational. Tennessee, Syracuse’s first-round matchup, will take advantage of runs if they are given the opportunity. So will Purdue, so will Kansas, and so will any other team in that tournament.
It’s tough to say how Syracuse stacks up thus far. They play Colgate on Tuesday, Nov. 14. The Orange have until then to hash it out in practice.
Next game for the Syracuse Orange: vs. Colgate (Nov. 14 – 7 p.m.)
Next game for the Canisius Golden Griffins at St. Bonaventure (Nov. 11 – 4 p.m.)