Syracuse Basketball: Maliq Brown excellent in getting steals, last one huge

Syracuse basketball, Maliq Brown (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball, Maliq Brown (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) /

So far in this young 2023-24 season, Syracuse basketball sophomore big man Maliq Brown has been one of the top performers nationally and in the Atlantic Coast Conference as it relates to generating steals.

As the Orange has started out the current term at 3-0, all non-conference wins at home, the 6-foot-8, 222-pound Brown has displayed terrific anticipation on the defensive side, whether the ‘Cuse is utilizing a man-to-man or a zone defense.

In each of those victories, Maliq Brown has produced at least three steals, and none was bigger than the theft he provided toward the end of the Orange’s game this past Tuesday night on the Hill versus Patriot League powerhouse Colgate.

After finding itself down 24 points in the second half against the Raiders, the Orange mounted a furious comeback and managed to grab a small lead in the closing 90 seconds or so. First, sophomore forward Chris Bell hit a 3-pointer to tie up the game.

Sophomore guard J.J. Starling connected on a pair of free throws to put the ‘Cuse up by two points. Then, in perhaps the most pivotal play of this thrilling affair, Brown made a steal and then notched a dunk in transition to extend the Orange advantage to four points with around 30 seconds remaining. That, to me, sealed the eventual 79-75 victory for the ‘Cuse.

Syracuse basketball sophomore big man Maliq Brown has shown his prowess in the steals department.

Through the first three encounters of 2023-24, Brown is averaging 22.0 minutes, 7.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and a team-high 3.3 steals per game. He’s connecting on 75.0 percent from the field and 100.0 percent (2-of-2) from the free-throw line.

When I wrote this article, Maliq Brown was tied for No. 17 around the country in steals per contest. Within the ACC, at the time of this writing, he was tied for No. 1 in steals per game. Not too shabby.

In the Orange’s most recent meeting, that nerve-wracking conquest of Colgate, Brown logged 20 minutes. He registered six points, three rebounds, three steals and one block.

Other Syracuse basketball players, namely Bell and sophomore point guard Judah Mintz, did the heavy lifting in the scoring arena, however, Brown’s solid performance – and that critical steal and subsequent transition dunk – was undeniably pivotal in the final outcome, too.

The ‘Cuse defense and its efforts on the glass continue to be a work in progress, as first-year head coach Adrian Autry has acknowledged. And the Raiders did out-rebound Syracuse basketball, 44-32, which was concerning to see.

That being said, in this young 2023-24 season, Maliq Brown may not be lighting up the scoreboard, and he’s likely not expected to, given that the Orange has several high-scoring guards/wings.

Yet Brown is a dependable presence on both ends of the floor. He’s physical, and he seems to quietly make an impact, none bigger than that sequence toward the end of the team’s win over Colgate. By extension, his versatility in competing at either power forward or center is an asset for Syracuse basketball as the current stanza progresses.

I’ve been high on Maliq Brown for a while now, dating back to when he was a vastly underrated, three-star prospect in the 2022 class who was a standout as a senior at the Blue Ridge School in St. George, Va.

As a freshman in 2022-23, when the Orange went 17-15 overall and missed the NCAA Tournament for the second season in a row, Brown averaged 20.2 minutes, 5.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, while hitting on 69.8 percent from the field and 56.7 percent from the free-throw line.

Autry and other ‘Cuse coaches noted amid preseason practices that Brown had gotten stronger and was displaying marked improvement in his game on both the offensive and defensive ends.

Syracuse basketball has a daunting stretch on the horizon, including at this week’s Allstate Maui Invitational in Honolulu. The physicality and defensive instincts of Maliq Brown, and his solid all-around play, will be of paramount importance for the Orange in the coming weeks and months.

Next. Syracuse Basketball: Gauntlet of foes up next, Judah Mintz says bring it on. dark