Men's Basketball

Syracuse utilizes 3-guard lineup against rangy Cincinnati

James Southerland was once again in street clothes Monday, sitting out his third consecutive game due to ineligibility. The 6-foot-8 forward, who shoots like a guard in a big man’s body, leaves his team sans a shooter and sans size.

It forced the Orange to turn to a three-guard lineup for the first time all season against Cincinnati, employing Triche, Carter-Williams and Trevor Cooney for lengthy stretches of the second half.

And though it hurt Syracuse defensively, as Boeheim explained in his postgame press conference, it gave his team a boost on offense. Those three players combined to score 37 points in a 57-55 win against the Bearcats, while also tallying 10 of the team’s 11 assists.

“We don’t have a lot of options shooting it,” Boeheim said. “We tried to play the three guards together to get another shooter in the game; it hurts us defensively. But when you’re not scoring you’ve got to try to find a way to score.”

The Orange managed only 22 points in the first half Monday and missed seven of its 10 attempts from 3-point range. Southerland, the team’s second-leading scorer and arguably its best outside shooter, would have likely boosted those numbers.

Instead, that becomes Cooney’s role. The guard finished with eight points, including two 3-pointers. He also chipped in four steals in 18 minutes of play, off-setting the lack of size featured in the three-guard lineup.

Cooney said the team began practicing and discussing the possibility of the three-player scenario once Southerland was declared ineligible. It moves Triche, a 6-foot-4 guard, down to one of the wing positions, with Cooney and Carter-Williams out on top of the zone.

“It’s something that we’ve talked about and put in the game today, so we’ll see if we put it in again this week,” Cooney said.

Judging by Monday’s results, Boeheim may consider using this lineup again if Southerland remains ineligible. The three guards played together from the 16:32 mark of the second half to the 8:54 mark. Syracuse closed Cincinnati’s lead from four to two in that stretch — effective, though not ideal.

Up next for Syracuse is Villanova, a team that lacks depth up front. It means the Orange might be able to get away with that lineup one more time before traveling to Pittsburgh in two weeks.

Said Cooney: “We’ll make it a lot more difficult for teams to play zone against us if we have that lineup out there.”


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