If you missed the first half of the Syracuse vs. Northern Iowa game, consider yourself lucky. The two combined for 43 points and shot under 30% from the field. It didn't get much better for the Panthers in the second half but the Orange got it going and wound up blowing out Northern Iowa, 68-46.
Here are some stats for just how ugly the first half was:
-First field goal for either team came at 16:52.
-The score was 5-4 with under 11 minutes to go before a scoring barrage pushed it to 10-10 with 9 minutes remaining.
-The leading scorer for each team at the half had 7 points.
-Syracuse shot 7 for 22 from the field.
-Northern Iowa hit just 3 of 17 three-point attempts (they took 17 three-point attempts in the half!)
Both teams were out of sync but the defenses did their part too. Northern Iowa's defense was impressive in the first half. They didn't allow Syracuse to run on them, they constantly double-teamed around the bucket and they stayed in front of their men. Their defense reminded me a lot of the Celtics. They didn't give up anything easy, would foul as opposed to giving up a layup and were so quick to help out on the rotation.
Syracuse's defense is what we've seen for years. The Panthers couldn't solve it and settled for the outside shots and they were not falling. Syracuse was also pushing those shooters back and getting pressure on the closer shots.
The Orange struggled on the offensive end because their seniors weren't getting it done. Rick Jackson and Kris Joseph were both ineffective early. It was one of their heralded freshmen who helped lead the way in the first half. Dion Waiters was an offensive juggernaut as far as this half was concerned. He scored 7 of the Orange's first 19 points. He finished with 10 including 2 of 4 from three-point range. After the game he said, "They think that I'm drive first. I am a driver. Nobody can stay in front of me if I put my mind to it. But I can shoot. That's one thing I can do well - shoot the ball. As you can see tonight." If there's one thing Waiters isn't lacking, it's confidence.
The second half was a completely different story for the Orange. Joseph became aggressive and took advantage of his speed and size and took it to the rim. After scoring a single point in the first, he had 13 in the second. He got about half those points on layups and free throws and demonstrated his improved shooting range with a couple three-pointers. Syracuse opened the half on a 21-5 run to put this thing to bed.
Syracuse had played good defense in the first half but was much more active in the second. They forced a lot more turnovers (Northern Iowa also got sloppy) and that led to some easy buckets. In the first half they shot 32% and with more layups in the second they shot 63%.
Northern Iowa didn't stand a chance in this game because of their porous outside shooting. They hit just 6 of 33 three-pointers (33 three-point attempts!). No team is going to win against the Orange shooting like that.
This Syracuse team reminds me a lot of last year's squad. In the first five games last season they had five different players lead them in scoring. Wesley Johnson of course, led the way but they were completely unselfish and everyone on the court was a threat. This year there are 5-8 different players capable of leading this team in scoring on any given night. I can't remember any Syracuse team as deep as this one. With that amount of talent it will be a tough balancing act for Boeheim. But too much talent is certainly a good problem to have.
-And what about the All-American Fab Melo? Get used to this stat line - 18 minutes, 5 fouls. He's going to have a tough time staying on the court unless he's more of where the threats are coming from. He would get to a spot just a tad late and get called for the foul. He has a lot of work to do but that's typical of most big men coming into college. He will definitely foul out in at least 5-10 games this season.
-I want to see more of James Southerland. I hope Boeheim gives him extended minutes in the upcoming cupcake games. He nailed both of the three-pointers he took and had a huge block on a three-point attempt. He's got about as much upside as anyone on this team.
-Baye Moussa-Keita (how long until I no longer have to look up that name to make sure I'm spelling it right?) went the way of Fab Melo and fouled out in 18 minutes. But he is much more polished than I thought he would be. He's a little small to be banging with Big East bodies but he held his own down there against Northern Iowa. He also hit a mid range jumper you often don't see from someone his size.
-Give credit to the crowd. The announcers said the student section was full two hours before game time. During their national championship year the student section wouldn't be filled until just before tip-off. They also counted down the shot clock when Northern Iowa had the ball (obviously not what the clock actually read) and it looked like they forced them to put up a shot under duress. That's one of my favorite gags.