Though the Carrier Dome surface will be different Saturday, SU hoops is back at the Dome, if only for one night until next week. As someone who endured the first three years of the Robinson era from ground zero, I’m just as excited as the next guy that Doug Marrone is leading SU football back to relevance in a hurry; It just doesn’t take away from my giddiness over the opening tip, even if it’s an exhibition game.
Tuesday night, SU coasted to a 96-60 victory over Kutztown to start the exhibition season. Jim Boeheim’s comments about the rotation going ten deep held true for the night, as all ten scholarship players posted between 15 and 23 minutes of court time. While you should be wary about drawing absolute conclusions in these outings due to the competition on the other bench, a few things jump out:
Mookie Jones: 17 minutes, 10 points, 3-9 shooting (2-7 3PT), two steals. Despite limited playing time, Mookie shot the ball more than any player not named Kris Joseph, but how surprised can you be? Of course, if I have to criticize him, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the two steals, though that statistic is somewhat flawed, as some thefts are just a matter of being in the right place at the right time when someone else strips the ball. Reports indicate that he played better in the second half than he did in the first, so maybe that’s something for him to build on.
After turning in a nice night on defense – 11 rebounds, two blocks and four steals – James Southerland is calling for consideration for a coveted rotation role off the bench, but C.J. Fair might have something to say about that. The Baltimore native led the team with 14 points, made his first 5 shots, sunk all four free throw of his attempts and pulled down four rebounds. A nice opening for the freshman.
In a wide mismatch in talent and size, Fab Melo registered four blocks and scored nine while also showing his rawness, committing five of SU’s 15 turnovers and being whistled for four fouls. He may not be dominant right out of the gate, but it’s going to be a delight watching him evolve game-by-game into a post force.
Brandon Triche put together a nifty little line which included seven assists, zero turnovers in 22 minutes of action. Scoop Jardine may be the starting point guard, but I think the team will be in good hands when he needs a breather. Elsewhere in the backcourt, Dion Waiters tried to make a strong impression out of the gate, but maybe tried too hard, going 3-9 from the floor. He’s certainly not gunshy, though he and the coaching staff have nothing but time to help rein in his shot selection.
I think we’re a long way from figuring out which candidate will assert himself as a consistent long-range threat . It’s one of the biggest questions surrounding the Orange, and the team’s ugly 5-29 performance from beyond the arc Tuesday night did nothing to make me feel otherwise. If you want to cherry-pick, Kris Joseph, Triche and Jardine combined to go 3-11 from the perimeter, but they aren’t the only possibilities.
Lastly, I was impressed by SU’s flawless 13-13 performance from the line. Nerves, crowd noise and all those things being equal, no matter who you play, the free throw is still shot from 15 feet without a defender in your face. It’s probably the most meaningful thing you can take away from an exhibition game (for what exhibition games are worth).
Next Tuesday comes the long-awaited revenge game against Le Moyne, the final exhibition matchup before Northern Iowa comes to town three days later.