Syracuse Basketball: Lots of positive takeaways in season-opening triumph

Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports) /

A week ago, Syracuse basketball didn’t shoot well at all from the field as a whole or beyond the arc in an exhibition tune-up versus Division II Southern New Hampshire. The Orange managed to win this contest, 72-58, but the team’s poor shooting and slopping play were two key storylines.

Fast-forward to Monday night, in the 2022-23 season opener for the ‘Cuse, and Syracuse basketball shot much, much better in a 90-72 victory for the Orange over Patriot League member Lehigh from the JMA Wireless Dome.

Head coach Jim Boeheim, commencing his 47th stanza at the helm on the Hill, gave all 12 of his scholarship guys some time on the court against the Mountain Hawks. Boeheim’s rotation won’t likely stand at a dozen as the 2022-23 term carries on deeper into the non-conference calendar and then on to Atlantic Coast Conference competition.

But for the time being, I did enjoy seeing so many different Orange players getting run. As I believe will be the case throughout 2022-23, the squad’s two senior starters, shooting guard Joe Girard III and center Jesse Edwards, led the charge.

Girard, who I think is going to have a monster campaign playing primarily at shooting guard rather than point guard, collected a team-high 19 points. Edwards, who missed numerous games a stanza ago when he got injured this past February, tallied 18 points and 11 rebounds.

Syracuse basketball looked solid in taking care of business versus Lehigh.

Beyond Edwards and Girard, freshman point guard Judah Mintz showed why he’s getting some early NBA Draft buzz. Mintz, a 2022 four-star player, was the starting point guard against the Mountain Hawks, and he produced 16 points.

What I love about Mintz are his energy, enthusiasm and passion. He’s athletic, he’s quick, he’s fearless, and he likes to get out in transition. Mintz also is highly proficient at getting into the lane and stroking a mid-range jumper.

Another Orange veteran, senior reserve guard Symir Torrence, chipped in 10 points. He knocked down a 3-pointer, which is an encouraging sign as the ‘Cuse looks to replace a lot of perimeter shooting that left the Hill after the 2021-22 season.

Freshman forward Maliq Brown, an underrated 2022 prospect who is physical, rebounds and does positive things in the paint, had 10 points in his Syracuse basketball debut. Another freshman, guard/wing Quadir Copeland, generated six points. His versatility is awesome.

In conquering Lehigh, Syracuse basketball generated a good amount of bench points, which is huge. The ‘Cuse had an advantage in paint points as well. The Orange, which often struggles on the boards in its zone defense, outrebounded the Mountain Hawks in a big way.

Syracuse basketball boasted eight steals and seven blocks. That’s solid. But the relatively young ‘Cuse roster also committed 13 turnovers, which is way too many, but also not surprising considering the Orange has tons of underclassmen within its line-up.

For a 2022-23 roster that, on offense, will have to replace shooters such as Buddy Boeheim, Jimmy Boeheim and Cole Swider, the ‘Cuse was highly efficient in its season-opening game. Syracuse basketball, per ESPN, connected on 54.5 percent from the field, 50.0 percent from 3-point land, and 77.4 percent (including 24 makes) from the charity stripe.

Additionally, the Orange defense held Lehigh to 42.9 percent shooting from the field as a whole and 38.1 percent from deep.

I recognize that the Mountain Hawks aren’t North Carolina or Duke, but Lehigh was forecast to finish at No. 3 in the Patriot League. So all in all, this was a decent first test for the ‘Cuse, and Syracuse basketball, to me, responded with a pretty nice performance.

Boeheim, officially, now has 999 career victories as a head coach, although the NCAA is lame and let’s all add 101 more wins to JB’s grand total. The Orange moves to 5-0, all-time, against Lehigh.

Up next for Syracuse basketball is a home non-conference collision with Central New York neighbor Colgate on Tuesday, Nov. 15, beginning at 7 pm. The Raiders torched the Orange at the Dome a campaign ago. It’s time for the ‘Cuse to exact revenge.

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