Ryan MacCammon | Staff PhotographerMen's basketball
Syracuse will look to push the tempo, get out on in transition against Colgate
While the Princeton Tigers hurried into strictly spaced, whistle-directed calisthenics, Brandon Triche sat by the scorer’s table, laughing and chatting.
The rest of his Syracuse teammates were scattered around the Carrier Dome floor in the hour leading up to tipoff. Some took turns stretching at midcourt. Michael Carter-Williams attempted a between-the-legs windmill dunk.
The Orange carried that relaxed approach into the game and eventually put away the Tigers for a 20-point win. The contest broke away from two half-court offenses taking turns running set plays and accelerated into broken fast-break transition play, and SU opened an insurmountable lead.
Syracuse’s matchup with Colgate at the Dome on Sunday at 1 p.m. will likely hold to the same pattern. The Orange will have another chance to work through different sets and player combinations before dominating in the open court.
“When it got to six I felt like we made a couple really good plays on the offensive end and Baye (Moussa Keita) made a big block and we got a little run, got it back in control,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said after SU’s 73-53 win on Wednesday.
That control can mean an exercise in chaos. Free-flowing transition and fast-break play is a staple for this SU team.
Boeheim does not have to do much juggling to find a lineup fit to run the floor. His first seven on the court – Carter-Williams, Moussa Keita, Rakeem Christmas, DaJuan Coleman, C.J. Fair and James Southerland – features a mix of size and speed. Boeheim’s go-to players cover vast slices of the court, standing and running.
So at any time SU’s 2-3 zone is a mass of long, outstretched arms and equally long, quick legs, waiting to break into attack. Carter-Williams exemplifies this aspect of the Orange.
“It’s hard for other teams because he’s got very long arms as well and he’s a very anticipative guard so it’s hard to make passes at the top of the key,” Fair said.
SU made it hard for Princeton to do anything offensively on Wednesday. At times, the Tigers guards stood locked into a fruitless, static, three-dribbles-and-pass offense as there were no clear lanes through the Syracuse defense.
As Princeton stagnated, turnovers became more plentiful and the Orange’s playbook wrote itself – steal, outlet, dunk.
But the first half and parts of the second revealed SU’s inability to create in the halfcourt. A play would be called, hesitance followed and it sometimes ended with the team breaking out of it and creating individually.
Boeheim was not satisfied with SU’s attempts to break down Princeton’s zone.
“We haven’t seen a lot of zone and when you see zone, sometimes for the first time – I don’t think we attacked it,” Boeheim said. “A couple times we did attack it well and got the ball in the right places and in the end when we needed it, Michael attacked it and we got him in the lane and he made a couple real good plays.”
And while some of those plays were the product of play calls from the bench and Carter-Williams, the best were completed on instinct.
When Carter-Williams tore the ball away from Denton Koon and sprinted 85 feet for a game-killing dunk, no instruction was required. That play and others like it are what the Orange will look to finish opponents with all season.
When Princeton threatened, it was a return to SU’s roots that broke the game open and sealed the win.
“We got the guys together and said, ‘Hey let’s go back to playing our style of game and get out and run,’” Carter-Williams said. “That’s exactly what we did and we just got some easy buckets and we opened the game.”
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