Men's Basketball

Working out the kinks: After up-and-down opener, freshman Ennis tries to improve against Fordham

Sam Maller | Asst. Photo Editor

Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis dished out seven assists in the season-opener against Cornell, but scored just one point.

Jim Boeheim said he has to be more specific because members of the media often confuse what he means.

“It’s kind of like retirement,” Boeheim jested.

When he said he didn’t need to talk to freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, he didn’t mean Ennis was so good he didn’t need to be coached. Rather, he meant Ennis doesn’t make too many mistakes.

Brilliance from Ennis came in flashes in Syracuse’s season-opening win over Cornell. He shot 0-of-6 from the field, but finished with eight rebounds, seven assists and just two turnovers in 28 minutes. Boeheim said the expectations of this year’s team need to be diminished and he made it clear the situation is the same for Ennis.

“You know, he’s a freshman,” Boeheim said.

The freshman point guard will get his next crack at collegiate competition when No. 9 Syracuse (1-0) plays host to Fordham (1-0) on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Carrier Dome. Boeheim insists Ennis still has room to grow, but he had a “solid game” within his element against Cornell.

He made smart passes, took intelligent shots and snagged rebounds, just like Boeheim expected him to.

“Is he Michael Carter-Williams?” Boeheim asked rhetorically and then chuckled. “No, not many are.”

Ennis’ first collegiate shot came just two-plus minutes into the game. He stepped back and pulled up for a 3 and the ball bounced off the rim and out. Less than a minute later he tried to find C.J. Fair but threw an ill-advised pass to Fair’s back shoulder that skirted out of bounds.

He missed four more jump shots in the first half, and Boeheim said he thinks Cornell left him those shots.

“He had to take them,” Boeheim said, “and I just don’t think he’s taken enough shots in practice or in games.”

Ennis shot a cumulative 56.6 percent in five of Syracuse’s six exhibition games, but he struggled in Canada against Carleton University, who may have been the best team the Orange faced in the preseason.

He finished 4-of-17 from the field in that game, which dipped his overall preseason percentage below 45. And against Cornell, his sole point came from the free throw line.

Early in the second half, he missed an open Trevor Cooney on his left. Ennis looked like he was rearing to shoot, but he shuffled his feet instead.

“I thought I had a slow game offensively, scoring the ball,” Ennis said. “I just tried to do some other things.”

What Ennis didn’t do from a scoring standpoint, he made up for with his on-ball defense, precision passing and savvy rebounding ability.

Ennis looked extremely comfortable undertaking the role of floor general. It’s something he’s done his whole life and a role in which he thrives. Against Cornell he played calmly and without apprehension.

Midway through the half, he found a slashing B.J. Johnson on the baseline for a contested layup. The bucket gave Syracuse its last lead of the first half, as the Big Red built a six-point cushion heading into the break.

In the second half, less than two minutes after he missed Cooney to his left, Ennis found the sharpshooter. Cooney coolly canned a 3 and Syracuse reclaimed the lead.

His final three assists came with the game out of reach to fellow freshmen Ron Patterson, Tyler Roberson and Johnson.

Ennis didn’t do anything spectacular in his debut, but it was only one game. He and Michael Gbinije — both unproven collegiate players — proved they’re capable of finding their teammates.

The “wow” factor wasn’t there, but the steady presence Boeheim talks about was. He said at the start of the year he expects Ennis to play more than 30 minutes per game, and his main purpose — for now, at least — is to distribute, not necessarily to score.

“Tyler and Mike did a good job,” Syracuse forward Rakeem Christmas said. “They’re doing what point guards do, which is look for the team.”

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