Well, that was unpleasant. Honestly, I kind of had a weird feeling about this St. John’s game all week, as the Johnnies are a physical, aggressive, defensive minded team and obviously this is a Syracuse team that struggles to score the basketball for long stretches. And St. John’s has been starting to come around from the perimeter, which came at the absolute worst time for the Orange. It’s kind of astonishing that the Orange could go from up 55-52 with less than five minutes remaining, to losing 69-57, but here we are.
It’s always less than stellar when you watch an opponent end a game with a 17-2 run, particularly when you’re at home and hadn’t lost to that program in almost eight years. But we all know there are some disappointing things to come from this game, most notably the result and the way the game ended in particular. While the Michigan loss could be chalked up to a moral victory a few days ago, Syracuse fans have a much different taste in their mouths right now after this gut punch of a defeat, coupled with Michigan getting knocked off by NJIT.
I’ll keep this pretty brief, but there are some things that really jump out in the box score, primarily how incredibly short the Syracuse bench was. Seven guys got in, but BJ Johnson only played seven minutes, so we really can’t count him. Outside of the starting five, only Buss Patterson got any significant run, and Chris McCullough, Rakeem Christmas, and Trevor Cooney all logged 40 minutes. Michael Gbinije may very well have joined them, as he played 37 minutes, but he was the one Orange player in serious foul trouble through the game.
Another playing time number that really jumps out is the fact that Kaleb Joseph only played 19 minutes, and as Donna Ditota has reported for the Post-Standard, that’s because this was his first real dog house game. Jim Boeheim wasn’t terribly pleased with his defense, and maybe his hitting two threes against Michigan might have turned out to be a bad thing, because Jimmy B wasn’t particularly happy about Kaleb that all five of Joseph’s field goal attempts came from beyond the arc.
The one real bright spot in the box score is Rakeem Christmas with 15 points and 15 boards, and Gbinije and McCullough each scored 13. However, McCullough hit just 3-of-10 free throws, and he and Gbinije combined for seven turnovers. Meanwhile, Cooney may have played 40 minutes but that’s about the only significant number in the box score for him, as he hit only 1-of-6 shots, including going 0-of-4 from three, and scored two points. Not exactly a stellar performance for a shooting guard and alleged three point specialist whose performance is already under a pretty strong microscope.
I think at this point, we have to start being a lot more realistic with our expectations for the season. We’ve all been pretty aware of the fact that the team has some serious limitations, and when we’ve played above average competition, they’ve been exposed like crazy. Not having Tyler Roberson tonight hurt, as our depth is abysmal, and this sophomore class is turning out to be a pretty major disappointment. We had all been hoping they would turn out to be one of Boeheim’s stronger classes, but the way this class is starting to mirror the freshman class from the 2003-2004 (McCroskey, Roberts, Watkins, Nichols) is eerie.
Add to that the fact that this team still can’t hit a three pointer even by accident, apparently, and it’s got all the makings of – wait for it, and make sure you’ve got a drink handy if you’re playing the ol’ Syracuse basketball drinking game – a long season.