'Cuse Tries to Get Back on Track

On the heels of a two-game losing streak, Orange fans can take solace: here comes Colgate. The Raiders pop up on the Syracuse schedule when the Orange need them most, after two ugly games against top notch opponents. Granted, it is never wise to head into a game thinking it will be a cakewalk but the Orange have won 39 straight and 113 out of 158 games against Colgate.

What does this mean? Well, it means that this is a game where the Orange should rebound – both with a win and hopefully on the boards – and win their 40th straight against the 'Gate. But, keep in mind that the 'Gate took Canisius to overtime before falling 78-73 – the same Canisius team that surprisingly gave SU all it could handle for the bulk of their game.

The Raiders are led by senior Jon Simon, a 5-11 guard who averages 14.3 points and four rebounds per game. Simon is hitting on 42.9% of his threes this year, though he only knocks down just over 41% of his shots overall. Simon is solid from the free throw line, making 79.2% of his attempts.

Other probable starters include Kendall Chones (6-6, 250), a junior forward who found his way to the Raiders from Cleveland by way of Fork Union, Daniel Waddy (6-2, 181), a junior guard, Marc Daniels (6-8, 251), a senior center, and Tim Pounds (6-4, 200), a sophomore swingman.

Chones is second on the team in scoring, averaging 10.9 points-per-game on 60.4% shooting from the floor, and also makes 78.3% of his free throws. Despite his bulk, Chones only pulls down 3.6 rebounds-per-game. Waddy is the next highest scorer, chipping in 9.7 points-per-game and shooting 45.5% from beyond the arc. Waddy also averages three boards and has handed out a team-high 12 assists this season.

Despite starting, Daniels on average plays just 13.8 minutes-per-game, chipping in 4.2 points and 2.8 boards in his limited minutes while making 71.4% of his shots. Pounds rounds out the top five in the Colgate rotation, scoring 7.3 points on 56.3% field goal shooting. Pounds does all of his damage in close, having only attempted one triple all season, but makes just 61.5% of his free throws.

Key reserves for the Raiders include Kyle Chones (6-5, 227), the twin of Kendall, who averages 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, along with Trevaron Vinson (6-2, 195), a sophomore guard who hits 55% of his shots for an average of four points-per-game. Todd Checovich (6-4, 204) has also gotten significant minutes and comes into the game with averages of 2.4 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. For the Raiders, who lack any real size, the only big man to get any time off the bench is Peter Minchella (6-10, 240), who chips in 2.5 points and 1.7 rebounds in just under 10 minutes-per-game.

The 'Gate enters tonight's game with a 4-3 record, with wins coming against Dartmouth (55-43), Binghamton (78-70), Quinnipiac (80-71), and Division III school Elmira (82-34). The Raiders have lost to Stony Brook (59-65), Canisius (73-78 OT), and Harvard (64-76).

Colgate has been outrebounding its opponents 34-30 on average and as a team has 24 blocks this year, a low number that was even bloated by the seven swats against Elmira on Wednesday night. The most glaring team number for the Raiders is their porous assist-to-turnover ratio. This season the Raiders have dished out 78 assists against 125 turnovers, and only Vinson has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio (10 assists/8 turnovers).

The Raiders are an average free throw shooting team, hitting 67.3% of their attempts collectively, but are solid from deep, hitting 38.2% of their triples. Of the bench players, Chones has been the most solid threat from deep, hitting 37.5% of his trifectas this season.

Tonight's game provides the Orange with an opportunity to work on all of the things plaguing the team right now. The story of every game has been either a slow start or surrendering a big run to the other team, along with inconsistent work on the boards. It's well known at this point that against Oklahoma State, outside of Paul Harris and Terrence Roberts no other Syracuse player had more than one rebound. That will change against Colgate, and hopefully players like Mookie Watkins and Demetris Nichols will use this game as a springboard into rebounding with consistency and tenacity.

It will be interesting to see whether the Dinosaur Plague is still being felt in the Syracuse locker room, as the Orange need several sick and banged up players to get back on track if they are to tap into their potential and become the team fans know they can be.

Most notably, the Orange need Eric Devendorf to rebound from his combined slump/illness and once again become the player who can at times be a dominant scorer. Even before his illness, Devendorf was struggling to find his offense as well as his handle, and Jim Boeheim needs the sophomore to step up and turn into the All-Conference performer he should be.

After a horrendous performance and embarrassing (as well as costly) missed layup against Wichita State, Nichols poured in 26 points against Oklahoma State, looking as confident against the Cowboys and their big athletic defenders as he has at any point in his career. The simple fact that he could overcome a 2-14 shooting game and respond the way he did says a lot about Nichols' mindset these days, and that is the best thing that could happen for Syracuse.

This game should also give Jim Boeheim ample opportunity to get some work for his depleted bench, assuming players like Andy Rautins, Matty Gorman, and Mike Jones have recovered from their respective illnesses and injuries. If all three are healthy and ready to go, tonight's game should give each of them a good opportunity. Rautins has been struggling with his outside shot all season and has been looking shaky with his handle, while Gorman has been suspect on the glass of late. Jones has obviously made freshman mistakes, but just needs more time and experience to blossom. For all three, a game against Colgate could be just what the doctor ordered.

The outcome of tonight's game should never be in doubt, but if the Orange again comes out sluggish they could find themselves with more of a battle than they would like. Still, the simple fact is the Orange is the far superior team. With the way the Raiders turn the ball over and their lack of any real inside presence, the opportunity exists for Syracuse to get a lot of easy baskets in transition. Obviously the turnovers should lead to breakaway points, but considering the Raiders leading rebounder is a 5-11 point guard, the Orange should be able to get out and run after defensive boards.

Expect Syracuse to take advantage of both Colgate turnovers and their vast size advantage and give one of their more dominant performances of the year. The Orange will be going into tonight's game ticked off about the outcomes of the last two games, and particularly their frustrating performances as a team in the two losses, and that means bad news for the Raiders.

Prediction: Syracuse 88, Colgate 60

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