Men's Basketball

With Big East play looming, Syracuse looks to find consistency in low post

Ziniu Chen | Staff Photographer

Syracuse center DaJuan Coleman and the rest of the Orange's big men are looking to improve their production inside the pain with Big East schedule starting in the coming days. SU plays its final nonconference game against Central Connecticut on Monday at 3 p.m. in the Carrier Dome.

Syracuse owns the perimeter. At least when the Orange is on its game.

SU’s ferocity inside the paint, though, hasn’t been as consistent.

But as No. 9 Syracuse (11-1) finishes its nonconference schedule against Central Connecticut Monday at 3 p.m. in the Carrier Dome and prepares for Big East play, the Orange is trying to improve its interior play. The Orange offense works outside in, but if Syracuse’s big men can draw defenders and then pass back to the outside, SU’s lengthy guards on the perimeter will be much harder to shut down.

“So we’ve got to have our perimeter guys playing well. We’ve got to get James some better looks,” head coach Boeheim said after the sloppy win against Alcorn State Saturday night. “Obviously Mike and Brandon have got to play well I think for this team to be successful.”

Neither of SU’s regular point guards performed Saturday. The Orange tried for the inside instead. While Syracuse scored 32 points in the paint, just 10 came from SU big men DaJuan Coleman, Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Keita. Forwards C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant contributed another eight. The Orange’s play in the low post was solid, but far from dominant against an otherwise overmatched Alcorn State (2-13) team.

The result was an under-performing outside display leading to an uneasy 57-36 win.

Hamstringing the Orange’s interior play were constant trips to the foul line. There, an infectious deficiency took hold. Alcorn State sent SU to the line 24 times, but the Orange failed to execute once it got there. The Braves fouled SU so often that Grant said it was Alcorn State’s way of making up for a deficient defense.

“I didn’t feel like it was on purpose, I feel like their defense was just that bad so they had to foul every possession,” freshman Grant said.

But SU’s big men failed to make Alcorn State pay. The team went 12-of-28 from the line. Including Fair and Grant in addition to the Orange’s centers, the SU inside men went an even more abysmal 6-of-18.

With Carter-Williams and Triche struggling to penetrate off the dribble throughout the game, outside shooting going consistently awry and SU’s postgame failing to capitalize at the line, the Orange attack went stagnant.

The foul-shooting problem has spread throughout the team, but it’s costliest underneath.

“You miss a few and then you think you can make a few, that’s fine. Then it gets in your head and then, I think it sprinkled down. You know, a few guys miss shots, then when you miss them you start worrying about it every time you go to the line,” Triche said. “You’re thinking ‘all right I got to make these,’ just more thinking about it.”

Grant called getting to the hoop part of his game. But inside play is not part of the Orange’s just yet. SU has given glimpses of hope as Coleman put up a solid eight points Saturday night. Still, the paint is not a reliable place for points for the Orange.

At the end of Boeheim’s postgame press conference Saturday night, a reporter asked the head coach if he thought the inside would be reliable by year’s end.

“The end of what year? The question would’ve been good if you said what year. Not this year, this year’s almost over,” Boeheim said, then paused.

“Let’s say it’s not this season.”

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