Syracuse Basketball: Top observations as SU downs Daemen in exhibition

Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Adrian Autry era got unofficially underway on Friday evening at the JMA Wireless Dome, as Syracuse basketball and its first-year head coach took care of Division II Daemen from the Buffalo area, 81-68, in an exhibition.

Autry, a long-time assistant who took the reins from Hall of Famer Jim Boeheim this past spring, has said on many occasions of late that the Orange in the 2023-24 season would utilize a lot of man-to-man defense and play at an up-tempo pace.

Both of those things transpired on Friday night, as the ‘Cuse put on a show (well, at least in the first half) versus a really good Daemen group that won 20 games a stanza ago.

While I wouldn’t get too hung up on anything that happens in an exhibition, it was enjoyable to watch this athletic and versatile Syracuse basketball roster compete for new head coach Autry, with the regular season kicking off on Monday, Nov. 6, when the Orange will host New Hampshire.

Syracuse basketball landed a triumph over Daemen in an exhibition.

Here are some of my top observations in the ‘Cuse victory over the Wildcats.

•Autry played nine guys. Not playing were sophomore guard Chance Westry, who is out indefinitely, freshman center William Patterson, junior center Mounir Hima and sophomore point guard Judah Mintz, who per the team was held out as a precautionary measure after suffering a mild lower-body injury in practice earlier this week.

•The starting five were sophomore guard J.J. Starling, sophomore guard/small forward Justin Taylor, sophomore forward Chris Bell, junior forward Benny Williams and junior center Naheem McLeod.

•Yes, the Orange played a lot of man-to-man defense, as Autry said the squad would. Syracuse basketball also played some zone. The ‘Cuse also got out in transition after defensive rebounds or forced turnovers, and it applied some full-court pressure as well.

•The Orange got a little sloppy in the second half after taking a 49-27 lead into the locker room at half-time. After the intermission, the ‘Cuse saw its scoring slow down, and Daemen was making 3-pointers and not withering away. For the game, the Wildcats connected on 45.8 percent from deep, and that was a sore spot for the Syracuse basketball defense.

•Despite having a huge size advantage, the Orange would only out-rebound this foe by three, 35-32. The ‘Cuse, as a whole, did shoot nearly 51 percent from the field.

•Syracuse basketball forced 17 turnovers but committed 15 of its own. The Orange managed nine blocks and eight steals. It held advantages of 24-7 in fast-break points, 33-12 in bench points, 19-6 in points off of turnovers, and 42-18 in paints in the paint.

•The topic of position-less basketball is an interesting one. Throughout this exhibition, there were times when three to four guards were on the floor with one big man (and not necessarily even a true center). The Orange’s roster has so much length and versatility, enabling Autry to often put multiple guys on the floor at the same time who can handle the rock and shoot it.

•Sophomore guard/small forward Quadir Copeland, who has received high praise from Orange coaches during preseason practices, is crafty. He knifed his way to the rim for a bucket. He had a nifty pass to sophomore center Peter Carey for a flush. And out in transition, Copeland threw a pass off the backboard to Williams for a dunk, which was awesome. Copeland, who finished with 12 points, five rebounds, nine assists, four turnovers, four steals and one block, is always hustling his butt off, going after rebounds and facilitating for others. He had an emphatic dunk out in transition as well. He’s looking great.

•Starling, manning the point guard position with Mintz out, showed his ability to get quickly out in transition. He’s really fast. He had 10 points, six rebounds, six assists and two turnovers.

•Taylor connected on four 3-pointers, all in the first half, to finish with 12 points, while redshirt sophomore guard Kyle Cuffe Jr., a transfer from Kansas, had a trio of 3-pointers and 11 points. Both of them have a strong-looking shooting stroke from deep.

•Williams produced 11 points, six boards and two blocks, and he hit several perimeter shots. Bell struggled from the field, only hitting one 3-pointer. Maliq Brown only played six minutes, yet he tallied 10 points, two blocks, one rebound and one steal. I’m not sure if he was having any sort of medical issue that limited his playing time so much.

•It was great to see Carey get some run, after he missed virtually all of last season due to injury. He played eight minutes before fouling out, and he had four points and a block.

•McLeod, a transfer from Florida State, is really tall and imposing. He collected eight points, four rebounds, one assist and two blocks.

•Syracuse basketball will wrap up its two-game exhibition docket by welcoming the College of St. Rose from Albany, N.Y., to the Dome on Wednesday, Nov. 1, beginning at 7 pm with live-streaming on the ACC Network Extra.

Next. Syracuse Basketball: 7-foot-4 Naheem McLeod is still growing – heck yeah!. dark