A solid outing for the Orange as it tunes up for its first big game of the year against Florida on Monday. Syracuse never felt threatened as it beat Oakland (Mich.) 86-66 in the Carrier Dome Friday night.
Unlike the game against Richmond, the Orange got out to a hot start and did not let up in the first half. Paul Harris showed why his nickname is Do-it-All Paul as he keyed an 11-2 SU run in the opening minutes. The junior had two baskets, two assists, and a rebound in that time.
Oakland would only score five points in the first seven minutes because of SU's outstanding defense. Center Rick Jackson came off the bench and led the team with six caroms and three blocked shots in the first period of play. The Grizzlies shot only 27.5 percent from the field and trailed the Orange 47-28 at the half. Surprisingly the ‘Cuse only had one player in double figures, which to no one's surprise was Jonny Flynn who scored 12 to pace the Orange who shot over 58 percent from the field.
It was much of the same story to start the second half as Syracuse pushed the lead to 24, its largest of the game in the opening four minutes. The Orange offense would cool off a little bit which allowed Oakland to chip away. The Grizzlies cut the lead down to 14 with just under 12 minutes remaining. But that's as close as the first time Carrier Dome visitors would get. Syracuse held between a 16 and 21 point lead for the rest of the game.
SU outscored Oakland by only one point in the second stanza, mainly because of its poor three-point shooting. After an efficient 5-of-11 (45.5 percent) shooting from beyond the arc in the first half, the Orange went cold hitting only 2-of-13 (15.4 percent) in the second half. But one good thing is that SU cashed in at the charity stripe, shooting a respectable 72 percent from the line.
Some other observations from Syracuse's 86-66 win over Oakland:
· The Orange had five players in double figures again which should be a common theme throughout the season as SU has tremendous balance. Flynn led all scorers with 18 points, followed by Arinze Onuaku who added 14. The big man looked good tonight as he was able to finish around the basket and even hit four of this seven free throw attempts.
· It doesn't even seem like Mookie Jones is on this team because of the log jam at the guard position. That's a good thing though for Kris Joseph who is making the most of his minutes. The freshman dropped in a career best 13 points on perfect 6-of-6 shooting and snagged six rebounds in only 19 minutes of action. It didn't seem like Joseph was getting talked about much coming into the season. He is a solid player and with outings like this, he is gaining head coach Jim Boeheim's trust. Expect Joseph to be one of the first to come off the bench for Kristof Ongenaet.
· The first man off the bench for Boeheim continues to struggle. After not hitting a shot against Richmond on Tuesday, Andy Rautins was 2-of-7 from the field, including a horrendous 1-of-6 from three-point range.
· Since we're talking about three-point shooting, the Orange went 7-of-24 from deep for the game. Half of those attempts came from Devendorf and Rautins who each hit one a piece. I'd like to see more of the things in the first half where the Orange drove to the basket instead of settling for outside shots. These guys will find their strokes soon, but Orange fans would like it to be really soon, as in by Monday.
On Monday, the Orange travels to Kansas City for the semi-finals of the College Basketball Experience tournament. Syracuse (3-0) takes on the Florida Gators on a neutral floor at 7:30. It'll be a good test for the Orange to see where it stands in the young season.