Cuse Country

Home Away From Dome for Syracuse Orange Fans

Bungle in the Jungle

Posted by Josh on November 22, 2006

Just got back from my first live look at the Orange this year, attending the game vs. Charlotte. The game was in a weird way both closer than the final score indicated, and also not as close. Mookie was out after aggravating his nose injury (never thought I would type that phrase) so Matt Gorman got the start (never thought I’d type that either).

The first half was very sloppy. SU had 10 turnoversIan Anderson, had committed a lot of fouls (Devendorf had 3 with something like 8 minutes remaining in the half), were not getting good rebounding position (which led to some of those fouls) and were giving up too many open looks from 3, including two nice-looking shots by Ian Andersen. Boeheim tried tons of different player combinations, hoping to find something that would click. The flip side of this is that he had the legendary “quick hook” working tonight. Bad passes, missed defensive assignments, any generally poor move usually resulted in a seat being reserved for you on the bench. And there were plenty of those to go around.

SU was down for much of the first half. But Charlotte was also not sharp, and they were unable to take enough advantage of SU’s poor early play to build much of a lead. (See the Score Track below.) SU’s biggest deficit was 7 points with about 5 minutes remaining, but they rallied at the end of the half, hit a couple late threes, and went into halftime leading by 1.

When they came out for the second half, the Orange were a much sharper team. That is, they cut down on the turnovers and sloppy ballhandling, and did a better job controlling defensive rebounds. The offense was still not creating good shots. It was at this point that Demetris Nichols remembered that he is a good player. He scored 11 of their first 13 points of the second half, on three 3’s and a jumper in the lane. After the 11th of those points, a 3 from the left wing, Nichols backpedaled down the court with his arms raised and the crowd finally making some noise. Most of these shots basically consisted of Nichols rising up and just shooting over the defender. On a night when the half-court offense showed very little flow or ability to free up shooters, Demetris created some offense on his own — a highly encouraging sign.

The defense was also better in the 2nd half. Interestingly, SU played man-to-man for almost the entire half, after Charlotte had run some effective plays against the zone in the first half. I think it helped get the team a bit more energized.

After Nichols’ burst gave the Orange an 8-point lead, they methodically built the lead up, playing tight D and taking good shots, until they had pushed the lead to nearly 20. Then they relaxed somewhat, and Charlotte was able to whittle it down a bit by the final buzzer — but the outcome was not seriously in doubt anymore. (In fact, Charlotte was obnoxious at the end of the game — fouling to put SU on the line, calling timeouts after they made baskets, as if they were down by 4 or 5 when really the margin was around 15 with under 2 minutes to play). So, the first half was very close (due to sloppiness), but when SU decided to show up and play it was clearly no contest. They just need to figure out how to bring the effort from the opening tap.

There were not too many highlight plays in this game, save a nice fast-break “alleioupe” from Harris to Roberts late in the game. Several times, SU players made nice moves to get to the rim, but missed layups. Josh Wright did this a couple times in rapid succession; Nichols did it once early after sidestepping a defender; and Harris had a sick move on the baseline where he had the ball about 15 feet out, made a move like he was just going to dribble back outside, lulled the defender and then suddenly shifted directions and took it to the rim on one bounce — the finger roll popped out, otherwise you’d definitely see it in the highlight reels.

Speaking of Harris, he was definitely the steadiest player on the floor tonight. With the exception of an ill-advised 3-point try early, he was essentially mistake-free. He played tight man defense, crashed the boards better than anyone else on the floor, didn’t make bad passes or fumble the ball out of bounds, and for the most part did not try to force anything on offense (that is not to say he didn’t take it strong to the hole a few times!) and just played very consistently. No other player on the team played nearly as well for the entire time they were out there. Josh Wright’s play was particularly uneven — he only has 3 turnovers in the box score but it sure seemed like more than that. Several times he forced his dribble into traffic and lost it, or tried to do a crossover move and lost control (I think it was hitting the defender’s foot but it was hard to be sure). He really needs to work on letting the game come to him. Maybe Harris will give him some lessons.

One final note on Charlotte. They have this guy on their team, name of Phaler:

tattoo you

Dude, your arms are waaaaaayyy too skinny to have that many tattoos. Either hit the weight room, or hit the dermatologic surgeon’s office. Seriously.

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