Orange Dominate Golden Eagles

After a disappointing first exhibition game, the Syracuse Orange turned up the defensive intensity and dismantled Cal State Los Angeles 99-51 on Sunday afternoon in the Carrier Dome. Demetris Nichols led four players in double figures with 18 points, and the Orange showed marked improvement on the glass. Syracuse now prepares for their season opening game against St. Francis on Friday evening.

The team that took the court on Sunday afternoon bore little resemblance to the team that struggled to beat Bryant on Wednesday evening. Boeheim's charges played almost exclusively man-to-man defense with great focus and intensity. The Orange dominated the defensive glass and forced the Golden Eagles into quick, rushed shots nearly every possession. In total, they forced 25 turnovers, won the backboard battle 60-36, and held Cal State Los Angeles to 28.1% shooting from the floor.

The Orange opened up a 47-27 lead at the break, but really poured it on in the second half when a 34-6 run expanded their lead to 48 points. The key to the run was hot perimeter shooting by the trio of Demetris Nichols, Andy Rautins, and Mike Jones, who combined to make 7 of 13 three point attempts. All three players finished in double figures. The SU passing was much better in this game, as evidenced by the 24 team assists.

Despite the huge margin of victory, the overall excitement should be tempered somewhat, considering the level of the competition. The Golden Eagles are coming off a 10-17 season in Division Two and are clearly not on the same level as Syracuse's first opponent Bryant University. That said, the fact that the ‘Cuse seemed to gel on both ends of the court was a very encouraging sign.

Player Capsules:

Darryl Watkins – Mookie pulled a complete 180 from the previous game, recording a double-double (11 pts, 11 rebs) and blocking a team high 5 shots. He was much more involved on both ends of the floor. The Golden Eagles started a 6-10 center in Micah Hamilton, so the size match-up for Watkins was much more appropriate in this game. Mookie has shown in the past that he has trouble chasing smaller players around the perimeter (as was the case in the Bryant game).

Terrence Roberts – In my opinion, Roberts is showing glimpses of improvement over his last two seasons. He's not going to turn in a John Wallace or Hakim Warrick type of senior year, but he should be capable of giving the team 12-15 points on any given night. That is, as long as he can figure out a way to stay on the court… he was in foul trouble once again, collecting 4 fouls in only 20 minutes. "The Tornado" was very active on the glass with 9 boards, and showed a desire to score in the post, finishing with 9 points. As we have come to expect, his free throw shooting was dreadful (1-3 including an embarrassing airball).

Demetris Nichols – DNice led all scorers with 18 points, despite playing only 15 minutes. His outside shot looked smooth and balanced, and he did a great job of setting up his midrange attempts with a shot fake and couple of dribbles. Nichols also ran the floor very well, finishing with two impressive dunks. Most importantly, he set the tone on defense by completely shutting down Jontae Vinson, a 20 ppg scorer. Although he has always been a good zone defender, it looks like he is even more suited to play man to man. He also looks a little more physical on the defensive end this year, which is a good sign.

Eric Devendorf – After torching the nets for 30 points on Wednesday, it looked like Boeheim told Devo to focus on playing-making on Sunday. He scored only 5 points on a cold shooting night, but dished out 5 assists. It was nice to see an expanded passing game, but against better opponents SU will not be able to afford 2-11 shooting nights from Devendorf. Still, he is poised for a breakout year.

Josh Wright – After 3 consecutive halves of poor basketball, Josh finally looked a little more comfortable in the second half against the Golden Eagles. He turned in 7 assists in this game and now has 15 "dimes" in total during the exhibitions. His defensive pressure was much improved, but he continued to struggle to convert in transition and on his drives into the paint. His insistence on playing at 100 mph leads to a lot of 1-on-3 type of situations, and he hasn't been able to identify when to pull it out and reset the offense. It was a nice sign to see him play a little more under control, but he is now 2-13 from the field and must start to show he can make shots.

Matt Gorman– It was another workmanlike performance from Gorman (8 pts, 6 reb, 4 bs). He did a great job getting his shot up on the glass quickly, and his high block totals are a testament to his improved positioning on defense. Expect Gorman to continue to get minutes and prove to be a very serviceable backup for this year's team.

Paul Harris – The Beast continues to struggle scoring the basketball, but he brings so much to the table in terms of defense, ballhandling, passing, and rebounding… He grabbed 13 boards, many of which he immediately used to start the break. Harris showed excellent court vision with 5 assists, many of which came on laserbeam passes. He is officially a TERROR on the defensive end, and is already starting to look more comfortable on the court. The biggest issue right now is his insistence on shooting long range shots (another 0-3 from beyond the arc), and his lack of recognition when it comes to interior play. He had a few shots blocked after offensive rebounds. Once he figures out how to gather himself and make a move before powering up, his scoring will improve.

Mike Jones – With the addition of Jones, Syracuse now has one of the more versatile SF duos in the Big East. Simply put, this kid HAS to play some this year. He has shown that he can play poised and under control, has a smooth perimeter shot, and has the requisite athleticism to play immediately. He looked great against the Golden Eagles, making a handful of mid-to-long range shots off of very astute cuts. His curl move to the elbow is a thing of beauty – if the pass is delivered on time, he's MONEY. There is no hesitation on his shot and his form and release are very good. He still looks a little lost on the defensive end at times, and has had moments of concentration lapses (for the second time in two games he clanked a "do I dunk it or finger roll it?" shot), but overall he looks confident and prepared.

Andy Rautins– The outside shooting is the first thing that comes to mind here, but I want to point out some of his other contributions. First off, he's a smart player. He just seems to know the right play to make at the right time. Secondly, his defensive awareness is pretty darned good. He has great hands, instinctive positioning, and can be very effective in disrupting passing lanes. With his lack of bulk, he's not going to be a good option for longterm defensive assignments, but he also shouldn't hurt the Orange if played in spots. I am expecting him to see minutes this year because he is the type of player that Boeheim likes off his bench – he knows his role and doesn't kill the team by trying to do things outside of that defined role (see: McCroskey, Louie).

Devin Brennan-McBride – With Onuaku shelved for the foreseeable future, Brennan-McBride probably won't take a redshirt this year. He's done some very nice things in his limited minutes and may be a player down the road. His free throw shooting has looked smooth and efficient (4-4 through two games). That is certainly a welcome change compared to recent SU big men. However, don't look for him to play many meaningful minutes this year.

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