It was not a perfect performance, no question. Five turnovers is too many, no doubt. But Syracuse's freshman point guard, Kaleb Joseph, showed significant signs of improvement in their 66-63 win over Iowa.
Joseph made better decisions, ran the half-court offense and played significantly better on the defensive end of the floor. At a critical time of the game, with Syracuse clinging to a one point lead, Joseph drove the lane and drew a Hawkeye defender. He then left a beautiful bounce pass for Chris McCullough along the baseline, who slammed it home for a three point lead late.
Seconds later, Joseph would force an ill-advised jump shot that nearly cost the Orange a shot at a victory.
"Kaleb made a good play when we had to have one," head coach Jim Boeheim said. "Then he tried to win the game with a jump shot when he should've, really, been thinking about getting it inside to Chris or Rak. Freshmen are going to do that."
Despite 3-10 shooting, it was arguably Joseph's best offensive game of his young career. The decision making and willingness to find others gave the Orange offense a much needed boost. While there is still work to be done in both areas, it was strong improvement from his performance just one night prior.
The upside of Joseph is clear. His first step, ball handling ability, ability to score at the rim and knack for finding open teammates have all the makings of a strong collegiate point guard. The improvement after just one night give a lot of hope for his future. Syracuse would take his stat-line of seven points, nine assists and two steals almost every night.
The success of Syracuse this season will be largely dependent on the play of Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough. But just as critical is the development of Kaleb Joseph. Friday night was a step in the right direction.
Jim Boeheim Post-Game: