Syracuse was very sick after they fell to 0-4 in the ACC, and I wrote last week that all hands should be on deck to figure out the problem. Apparently the athletics department had to call in a doctor to try to solve the problem.
Well the doctor made a house call, coming to the Dome to help the Orange collect their first conference win of the season against the equally sick Eagles of Boston College. Then, as Syracuse started a daunting three-game road trip, the doctor went with them and helped them stomp Wake Forest for the first road win of the season. Next came what might have been the biggest challenge of the season, most certainly at this point and maybe the entire season. The Orange were to travel to Durham, NC to take on Duke, the same place Jim Boeheim was famously ejected the last time the team traveled there for arguing a questionable call and throwing off his jacket late in a loss. There were no technical fouls this time. And there was no loss. In a stunning upset, the Orange took out the No. 20 Blue Devils 64-62 Monday night to improve to 3-4 in conference play and 13-7 overall.
Each game, a different player stepped up, whether it was Malachi Richardson thriving in a defensive battle against the Eagles, Trevor Cooney not being able to miss at Wake Forest or Tyler Roberson grabbing every rebound in sight at Duke. There is no one, go-to guy this season, so every game someone has to step up. Tyler Lydon showed that in the Bahamas and Michael Gbinije has been the most consistent player this year. But apparently the doctor diagnosed the Orange with a disease of not playing together. This week, they got a whole lot better in that department.
Highlights of the Week
Roberson: 40 points, 45 rebounds, 24 offensive rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, 17-32 fgm/a, 64 minutes
Roberson at times looks like someone that just kind of eats space in the middle, but in the last week, he has looked like a man among boys, especially with his rebounding. He recorded a double-double in all three games this week, all while averaging just less than 30 minutes a game. In the games against Boston College and Wake Forest, the junior was the one real force in the middle, not really being challenged a lot. But against Duke, Roberson was a man among boys. By halftime, he had already nearly recorded a double-double with eight points and nine boards. He tied a school record with 12 offensive rebounds, eight of which came in the second half. Roberson has become a force in the middle, exactly what the Orange needed desperatley.
Cooney: 44 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, 1 block, 104 minutes
Against Boston College, Cooney simply couldn't find his shot, starting out the week with a 2-9 performance and was held to a season-low five points. The senior heated up as the Orange traveled to warmer weather in North Carolina, pouring in a game-high 25 points, scoring 19 of those in the first 10 minutes of the game. Then against the Blue Devils, Cooney was one of four Syracuse players to score in double figures. A streaky shooter, Cooney was on this week, succeeding as the sharp shooter he is.
Gbinije: 43 points, 15 rebounds, 14 assists, 13 assists, 9 steals, 113 minutes
The small forward turned point guard had maybe his best stretch of games this season. Gbinije scored at least 14 points in all three games, and dished out a career-high nine assists against Duke. The senior plays nearly every minute of every game, and there are few players in the country that continually play with as much poise as he does. Gbinije runs the show for the Orange and when he has weeks like this week, the Orange are very successful.
Lowlights of the Week
A 3-0 record combined with everyone just simply doing their job is how Syracuse is going to survive and thrive the rest of the season. With that said, I can find no real lowlights this week. This might have been the best three game stretch the Orange have played this year, topping even the performance in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.
As classes start back up this week, the Orange are now off until Saturday when they finish up this season-long road trip was a game in Charlottesville to take on Virginia in the only contest of the week. That game will tip off at 12:00 on ESPN or ESPN2.