Syracuse Basketball: ‘Cuse defense a work in progress, Adrian Autry says

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

Syracuse basketball is 2-0, so far, in the young 2023-24 season, and each of the Orange’s non-conference victories has come by 10 points or more.

At the same time, in those two home games, the ‘Cuse has allowed a combined 149 points, or roughly 75 points per affair. That leaves a lot to be desired, many Syracuse basketball fans have stated on social media this week.

To be fair, the Orange has a 13-player roster that is full of underclassmen – nine sophomores, in fact, along with one freshman and three juniors. The team also has five players who are new to the program in 2023-24, and the ‘Cuse is primarily utilizing a man-to-man defense after heavily relying on a 2-3 zone for years under former head coach Jim Boeheim.

These aren’t excuses, but they are the reality of where Syracuse basketball resides at this point in the current term. In his post-game press conference after the ‘Cuse defeated Canisius earlier this week at the JMA Wireless Dome, first-year head coach Adrian Autry acknowledged that his squad’s defense has “a lot of work to do.”

Head coach Adrian Autry says the Syracuse basketball defense is a work in progress.

On Wednesday evening in Central New York, the Orange knocked off Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference school Canisius from Buffalo, N.Y., by a final of 89-77.

Autry noted that the Golden Griffins are a strong offensive group, and they showed that on Wednesday night. Canisius was awful from the free-throw line, however, it did connect on 48.4 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from 3-point land.

What’s more, while Syracuse basketball had a size advantage over this foe, the Orange and the Golden Griffins were tied at 37-37 in the rebounding department, with Canisius grabbing 16 offensive boards.

Autry did say that the ‘Cuse defense forced the Golden Griffins into some tough looks from deep, and Canisius was ultimately able to hit on 10-of-22 from 3-point land.

The Syracuse basketball head coach was quick to say that, moving forward, the Orange has to do a better job on the glass as well as defending the perimeter. Autry said that in the first half, ‘Cuse players came out a little flat with their energy (the team did have a quick turnaround after beating America East Conference member New Hampshire this past Monday, 83-72, on the Hill).

He wasn’t making an excuse, but for Autry, some of the keys are his players staying in front of their opponents while on defense, not giving up second-chance opportunities via the boards, and not enabling foes to score in transition, whether on layups or even transition 3-pointers.

Canisius scored 32 points in the first half but then a whopping 45 points after half-time. “We can’t have that,” Autry says.

In the second half, after the Golden Griffins cut their deficit to six points, Syracuse basketball went on a pivotal 14-0 run to increase its lead to 20 points. By and large, for the rest of this contest, the Orange managed to keep its edge to at least 10 points.

In that critical run, Autry said the ‘Cuse defense was really good, as players were getting in their stances, not allowing transition buckets, and communicating well. The Orange defense is showing glimpses here and there of what it can do, it just has to put it all together and perform more consistently, Autry acknowledged.

In post-game interviews, both sophomore guard J.J. Starling and sophomore wing Justin Taylor said that Syracuse basketball shouldn’t have many issues scoring the ball, evidenced by the team putting up 80-plus points in both triumphs and not necessarily shooting the ball at a high clip from long range.

Starling said that once the defense started locking in and making Canisius players take contested 3-point attempts, that was a turning point for the Orange in this win.

Taylor noted that the ‘Cuse offense will take care of itself. It’s all about defense, and if the defense is there, and the Orange is able to get out in transition after defensive rebounds or forced turnovers, that will prove huge for Syracuse basketball as the squad irons out some kinks in its man-to-man defensive schemes.

Syracuse Basketball: 4-star Donnie Freeman is officially Orange – BOOM!. dark. Next