It started out like so many other games this season. Kaleb Joseph looked a bit lost, was careless with the ball and got the quick hook after an unforced turnover. Then the second half started and everything turned around.
Joseph was returning home, sort-of, playing his high school ball at Cushing Academy, just 55 miles from Boston College's Chestnut Hill campus, though originally from Nashua (N.H.). He wanted to put on a bit of a show for his friends and family in attendance. As the Orange pulled away from the Eagles, Joseph was able to meet that goal.
"Whenever anyone double teams Rak (Rakeem Christmas), it opens up a lot of scoring opportunities for other guys," Joseph said. "Luckily for us, Rak has a great basketball IQ and he's a great passer out of the low post."
The true freshman point guard scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half, making all seven of his shot attempts on the night. That included two enthusiastic dunks as part of Syracuse runs that put Boston College in the rearview mirror. But Joseph's performance was much more than cheer inducing dunks or a perfect shooting night.
It was about his floor game, running the show, knowing when to look for his shot and when to find his teammates, and, most importantly, playing good defense.
"It always feels good to play well," Joseph said after the game. "It feels a lot better when you win. That's our number one priority. But yeah, it feels good to play well in front of my family."
Both of Joseph's turnovers were in the first half as he played nearly flawless basketball after intermission. He ran the half court offense well, saw the floor beautifully, and scored when the opportunity presented itself. Not just on dunks, but taking his man off the dribble and pulling up for a mid-range jumper that touched all net. He did that three times on Wednesday.
Joseph was also able to find open shooters, dishing out four assists that netted 11 Syracuse points.
It may have been Joseph's best game defensively. That end of the floor has been his nemesis this season, often causing Boeheim to turn to Ron Patterson. But not on this night. Not on a homecoming of sorts for Joseph. As his offensive game became more efficient, his defensive play became more steady.
He rotated well, did not leave shooters open, and used his length to create problems for the Eagle guards. None of those will show up on the stat sheet, but all are vital to his development.
The key now is for Joseph to continue playing with that same type of efficiency, intelligence and productivity for the final seven games of the season.