The opponent was not a sexy one, but the Orange came out and put on a business like performance. SU swam laps around the LeMoyne Dolphins in its 85-51 victory at the Carrier Dome Sunday night.
Syracuse got out of the gates quickly, going on a 13-0 run to begin the game. The offense was very efficient, due in large part to Jonny Flynn's five assists in the first period of play. But the Orange defense finally showed what it can do when it applies itself. Head coach Jim Boeheim let his players play man-to-man against the Dolphins for a majority of the game while mixing in some zone on a few possessions. The rotation and the switches on screens were much better than in the first two exhibition games. Syracuse's defense forced 15 turnovers in the first half. This led to a number of easy baskets in transition which is where the offense shines.
The ‘Cuse took a 38-19 lead into the locker room after shooting almost 46 percent from the field. Junior Andy Rautins paced all scorers with nine points off the bench. I was very impressed by Rautins, and it had nothing to do with his sweet shooting stroke. The Jamesville-DeWitt product's new physique seems to have given him a great deal of confidence when it comes to playing defense. He was very physical with the LeMoyne players, which shows Boeheim is starting to get the idea across that defense wins games.Many times last year, once the Orange built up a big lead, it would ease up on the gas pedal. That was not the case tonight. Point guard Jonny Flynn kept the pace going by scoring the ball himself. The sophomore had 13 second half points on an array of quick spin moves that drew oo's and ah's from the 16, 755 in attendance. Flynn also provided the crowd with a laugh late in the second stanza. A Dolphin player pump faked a shot attempt, which caused Flynn to jump into the air and he was somehow able to hurdle right over him. Syracuse continually built on its lead, never letting LeMoyne get any confidence as the Orange offense shot a blistering 54.5 percent from the field. The highlight at the end of the game was when freshman walk-on Brandon Reese scored a basket for his first career points.
Some other quick observations from Syracuse's win over LeMoyne:
· Eric Devendorf looks better and better with each game he plays. There were a couple of vintage lay-ups for Devo who did not wear a knee brace on his repaired ACL.
· His stat line may not look impressive at a glance (7 points, 2 rebounds, 3 steals) but Kris Joseph played very well. The freshman just seems comfortable out there on the court, and he plays with such a smooth rhythm. Joseph may be better than Boeheim first thought.
· Speaking of Boeheim, the coach said he would give Andy Rautins starter-type minutes off the bench. The guard played 31 minutes and scored 12 points while showing he can play defense.
· Five Orange players tallied double-digit points, led by Flynn's 17. Paul Harris recorded the first of what should be many double-doubles with 12 points and 10 boards. The junior knocked down a couple of mid-range jumpers which he started to show off late last season. With that in his arsenal, Harris will have better lanes to drive to the hoop as defenders must honor his improving shot.
· The one negative in this game was SU's three-point shooting. The Orange only connected on five of its 24 attempts. But I wouldn't worry about it too much because guys like Rautins and Devendorf will knock down those shots once they play some more games.
The Orange will play again on Tuesday night as it takes on the Richmond Spiders in the second round of the College Basketball Experience Classic.