If Syracuse is going to take the next step as a team this season, they have to get more contributions from the center position. That means more minutes and more production from DaJuan Coleman. Even the occasional impact from Chinonso Obokoh would provide more depth and options for the Orange rotation.
In Tuesday's 82-60 win over Montana State, they got significant contributions from both.
Obokoh has been the subject of much criticism, failing to get on the court despite a lack of frontcourt depth, specifically in the middle. He played 12 minutes on Tuesday, pouring in a career high 11 points on 5-7 shooting to go along with six rebounds.
The 12 minutes played were the second most of the season (15 vs Lehigh). His previous career high was just four points.
"Chinonso, I was happy for him," head coach Mike Hopkins said. "He hasn't played in a while. So it was fun to see him. I thought he did a good job on the defensive end as well as offensively, he finished. Very happy about that."
Chino ran the floor well, made some plays out of the post, finished at the rim and scored through contact. It was the first time a long time that he showed flashes of what the Syracuse coaches saw when they recruited him a few years ago.
"In the second half, Chino went up and set ball screens and dove, and guys found him," Hopkins said. "He was able to finish."
As an aside, Chino is a program guy who about as unassuming as it gets. Despite seeing sporadic minutes at best, he never complains. Clearly, he kept himself ready and delivered on Tuesday. Yes it was Montana State and not Duke or North Carolina, but it was a positive step for him.
In addition, Dajuan Coleman provided a spark to start the second half, scoring seven points in the first three minutes. He hit a mid-range jumper, finished when fed inside, hit all three of his free-throws during the game, played solid defense and did a decent job on the glass.
"I thought he was in control, and it caused them a problem," Hopkins said. "They were going to switch on everything and play their matchup to try to confuse us a little bit. Dajuan did a great job of taking his time, beint patient in the post. Going five for five in 12 minutes is pretty incredible."
In just 12 minutes, Coleman contributed a season high 13 points on 5-5 shooting, four rebounds a block. It is actually surprising Coleman did not see more minutes given how well he played during his time on the court.
Combined, Coleman and Obokoh gave Syracuse 24 points and 10 boards in 24 minutes. That is the best production they have received from those two all season. With conference play right around the corner, this was an important and extremely positive step for both players and the team as a whole.
"As we move forward, those two guys on the defensive end are going to be huge for us," Hopkins said. "Especially in the ACC with all the size that we're going to play against. Obviously that's a good sign on the offensive end, but where we need them most as we move forward, is on that defensive end.
"I thought they did a good job tonight."