Syracuse Prepares for Exhibition #2

Former Syracuse forward Stevie Thompson returns to the Carrier Dome to coach the Cal State-Los Angeles Golden Eagles against the Syracuse Orange on Sunday afternoon. Thompson played for the Orangemen from 1986-90 and is the school's #7 all time scorer with 1956 points.

The Orange look to rebound from a lackluster performance in their first exhibition on Wednesday, when they beat the Bryant Bulldogs 92-86. Cal-State Los Angeles is coming off a 10-17 season against mostly Division II competition, so Syracuse should have no problem in dismantling this team. The Golden Eagles' top player is Jontae Vinson, a 6-5 senior forward who scored nearly 20 ppg last year while also grabbing 8.6 rebounds per contest.

Sunday's primary goal will be to improve the overall team defense, particularly with regards to the man-to-man scheme. Syracuse struggled defensively on Wednesday, giving up 6 threes to Bryant PG Chris Burns and allowing more than 20 offensive rebounds to the much smaller Bulldogs. Consequently, tightening up the perimeter defense and holding down the middle will be a point of emphasis.

Boeheim will use the same starting lineup that he used against Bryant, with junior PG Josh Wright getting his second shot at leading the offense from the point guard slot. Wright had a few nice moments in the first exhibition, but his inability to defend the perimeter and settle down a spastic SU offense was noted by coach Boeheim in the postgame press conference. As such, it will be very important for him to show poise and make good decisions while his play is dissected under a microscope by the Syracuse staff and fans alike.

One player whose role is already well understood is Eric Devendorf. The second-year shooting guard was a scoring machine against Bryant and looks to have greatly improved his game. His ability to score in multiple ways makes him a match-up nightmare for opposing teams, and the Golden Eagles will be no exception. Look for Devo to continue his early success.

Thompson's Golden Eagles are a little bigger than the Bryant team, so look for senior center Darryl Watkins to get more minutes in this game. He turned in an utterly forgettable showing in his first game and it seems that each year it takes him nearly half a season to get up to speed. Considering this is his last year, it would be nice to see him take control and play with intensity starting early in the year. Sunday's game will give him an opportunity to do just that.

The other members of the starting lineup, Demetris Nichols and Terrence Roberts, had up-and-down showings against Bryant. Nichols scored 21 points, most coming late in the game, and Roberts had 16 pts and 14 rebounds. Both players' intensity seems to fade in and out during the course of a game. Boeheim will be looking for a consistent effort from them this time around.

Two players who always give a consistent effort are forwards Matt Gorman and Paul Harris. Gorman was a defensive stalwart with 9 blocks on Wednesday, and seemed to show better mobility and agility than in past years. Harris had some rough moments in the first game, but his natural athletic abilities and his relentless personality were on full display. Look for him to become more effective on both ends of the court as he gets more comfortable. The same can be said of freshman forward Mike Jones, who seems to be seasoned beyond his years.

Boeheim will continue to look at various rotations, using all of the aforementioned players and also Andy Rautins and Devin Brennan-McBride. You can expect some sloppiness early in the season, especially when such loose substitution patterns are used. The most important thing to Boeheim will be effort and decision-making. With 4/5 of the starting lineup already decided, the main issue will be determining bench rotations and which player provides the best offensive leadership. Will Wright continue to struggle, and will Paul Harris show an ability to run a halfcourt offense? Tune in Sunday as the Orange attempt to tune up.

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