Matchup Preview: Syracuse vs. Cornell

Syracuse welcomes a familiar foe into the Carrier Dome on Wednesday as the Cornell Big Red give the Orange their final non-conference test.

The Matchup: Syracuse (8-4) vs. Cornell (6-6)
Date: 12/31/14
Time: 6:00pm Eastern
Location: Carrier Dome (Syracuse, NY)
Television: ESPNU

Key Players

G/F Michael Gbinije: Gbinije has stepped up his game in recent weeks, shooting 60% from the floor over his last six outings. During that stretch, he is also scoring at a high rate, shooting well from the outside and distributing the ball well. He gives the Orange offense a new dynamic and opens things up for everybody else.

SG Trevor Cooney – Syracuse: The improvement of Cooney over the last six games has really helped Syracuse on the offensive end. Over that span, he is shooting much better from the outside, taking defenders off the dribble and being a creator for others with the basketball. This is another great opportunity for Cooney to continue his ascent with conference play on the horizon.

SG Galal Cancer – Cornell: Cancer is a sharpshooting two guard who distributes well and rebounds well for a guard. He is the team’s best on-ball defender as well. Look for the Big Red to try to get him some open looks from the outside as they try to shoot over the zone.

PF Shonn Miller – Cornell: Miller does it all for the Big Red. He is their leading scorer, rebounder, one of their better outside shooters, leads the team in blocks and free-throw shooting. The Syracuse zone will key on Miller throughout Wednesday’s matchup.

Cornell Offense vs. Syracuse Defense

Usually when Cornell comes into the Carrier Dome, they have an abundance of outside shooters who really test the perimeter of the Syracuse zone. While the Big Red certainly have their share of marksmen, they are not as proficient as in years past.

Cornell is only shooting 34% from three-point range as a team and only has one player shooting over 40% from distance in reserve guard Darryl Smith. Besides him, Galal Cancer, Robert Hatter and Shonn Miller are all capable shooters. That group will test the Orange zone.

Look for solid ball movement to try to get open looks from the outside from Cornell. Syracuse will respond by pushing the zone out a little further than normal, as the Big Red does not have the interior players to hurt Syracuse inside.

The aforementioned Miller only stands 6-foot-7, 210 pounds. The other prominent forward is 6-foot-9 David Onuorah. He is an average rebounder, does not respond well to physical play, can be foul prone and is a below average offensive player.

Syracuse Offense vs. Cornell Defense

Cornell plays primarily man, but will mix in some zone looks from time to time. They are not a particularly strong defensive team and have a big weakness inside. Rakeem Christmas will be a big problem for the Big Red. Look for Syracuse to feed him inside early and often.

This is also a game where freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph could get things going. He has a solid matchup senior Devin Cherry. Joseph should be able to find Christmas or Chris McCullough off the pick and roll.

The hot shooting of both Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije could come into play if Cornell decides to double the Syracuse frontcourt players. With a big size advantage inside, the Big Red may try to send extra help when the Orange throw the ball into the post.

That should free up Cooney and Gbinije for looks off of the inside-out ball movement. If they continue to shoot the ball well, as they have over the last five or six games, Syracuse is very difficult to defend for any team. Even more so for a team with a significant disadvantage inside.

Off the bench, Tyler Roberson could be in line for a strong performance. His size and physicality inside will give Cornell trouble.

Final Thoughts

Syracuse should win this one by 20+ and enter conference play on a three-game winning streak. Considering how well they have been playing and how much they have been improving, the Orange seems ready for the next challenge.

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