It only took a couple possessions before it was obvious that Syracuse would have little trouble with Montana. And while most went to bed at halftime due to the late start, something important happened in the otherwise meaningless second half. DaJuan Coleman grew up a little.
Yes it was Montana, and their bigs are not anything to write home about. They don't have size, strength, and aren't extremely skilled. But what Coleman showed in the second half late Thursday night/early Friday morning was development.
Coleman seemed more confident, his footwork was better, and he showed his elite strength in the post. The highly touted freshman showed post moves, patience when doubled, and a solid touch around the rim. His footwork in the post was excellent, using his pivot foot well and getting where he wanted to in the lane. It added a dimension to the Orange offense that has not been there all season.
All in all, Coleman finished with 12 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal in only 15 minutes of action. He also showed a nice stroke from the charity stripe, going 4-5 from the line. The biggest concern is defensively, where he showed some improvement. Coleman did not commit a single foul during his time on the court, an issue that had plagued him earlier in the season. His rotations in the zone were more precise, showing a better grasp of the defensive scheme.
It was invaluable experience for the true freshman. He battled inside, boxed out, and utilized his size advantage. He still has things to work on, however. Coleman still has a tendency to bring the ball back down after a rebound, and his defensive awareness still needs work. There is still a tendency to creep up in the zone, allowing a bounce pass to the baseline for an open layup inside. Montana did expose Coleman on that late, which resulted in a Southerland foul. Still, there were positives on that end of the floor.
On this day, Coleman showed the promise many expected all season. That was probably unfair to expect so much so early. Too often freshmen are expected to be dominant right away, and there isn't the patience to allow a player to develop. Despite that, Coleman showed a skill set that could allow him to take huge strides in his sophomore season.