Offensively, the first half of Syracuse's 70-37 win over Loyola left a lot to be desired. The Orange shot only 42% from the field, did not make a single shot from beyond the arc and had several unforced turnovers. It was more of the same from a Syracuse offense that has been below average at the start of the 2014-15 season.
“We have to take better shots and take advantage when we get good looks," junior guard Trevor Cooney said. "I rushed a couple today, I took a couple bad shots, but when I got a good look at the basket, I made the one. We just have to continue to find the open spots and take advantage of it.”
They took that advice in the second half. It started with a 14-1 run over the first four-plus minutes after intermission. During that stretch, Syracuse shot 6-9 from the field. Overall, the Orange were a very efficient 61.5% from the field and 40% from deep.
"I thought in the second half, we relaxed a little bit," head coach Jim Boeheim said. "Kaleb relaxed a little bit. (He) got a couple easy shots and he's got to just play like that. Knock them down. Knock those shots down and loosen up a little bit.
"I thought Trevor got to the basket better and that's a good thing. We did a good job looking for Rak inside. He's got to finish better around the basket."
Joseph started things off during the decisive 14-1 second half run with a mid-range jumper. He would hit that shot again a few minutes later, taking a couple of dribbles inside the arc, pulling up and hitting all net. He finished with eight points on 4-7 shooting.
In the second half, Rakeem Christmas did finish around the basket. He and Chris McCullough used their size, strength and athleticism advantage to dominate the paint. Both got easy looks at the rim and finished as they led an Orange offensive attack that put up 42 points in the final frame.
McCullough finished with 17 points and seven rebounds on 6-7 shooting. Christmas added 18 and nine on 7-14 shooting. Syracuse was so dominant inside, little used reserve center Chinonso Obokoh picked up four points, making both of his attempts, in just 12 minutes of action. He added three points and a block.
The Syracuse offense did not solve their outside shooting woes by any stretch, but they continue to get closer to finding an identity. One that involves Christmas and McCullough as the center pieces of their offensive attack. Trying to get easy looks around the basket for high percentage shots. Strong ball movement, taking care of the basketball and crisp passing all aided their efforts. Specifically from freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph, who finished with seven dimes.
It won't be as easy inside as it was on Tuesday, but Syracuse has the athletes to be successful in the paint. Tuesday was a step in the right direction.