Syracuse’s bigs, its most unproven unit, shines in 1st exhibition game

first_imgAfter his first three blocks, Bourama Sidibe remained stoic. His arms hung low and he walked slowly back to his spot near the low block, ready to defend. But after his fourth swat sent the ball into the lap of a fan in the second row behind the basket, Sidibe tilted his head down, as if to hide his expression. He smirked.The team’s star guard, Tyus Battle, did too. Teammate Elijah Hughes, who’s redshirting this season, burst off the bench and threw out his arms, elated Syracuse’s true freshman forward had established himself as a rim protector within his first minutes of college basketball, in Syracuse’s eventual 84-54 victory over Southern New Hampshire in the Carrier Dome on Wednesday night.“He has great timing,” said Battle, a sophomore who led all players with 20 points. “I’ve seen him do that stuff all throughout the summer. … He times the ball, he sees the ball. I don’t know, both (he and junior Paschal Chukwu) are really good. We’re lucky we have two guys who can block shots like that.”Before fouling out with four minutes to go, Chukwu added six blocks of his own. And now, the pairing of Chukwu and Sidibe figures to consistently rotate at the bottom of the Orange’s 2-3 zone. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim depends on this to be true, because, after the Orange vs. White scrimmage, he said he’d like to play each center 20 minutes per game to start the season.The centers’ play Wednesday night, albeit against a Division II team that played no one standing within two inches of the 7-foot-2 Chukwu or 6-foot-10 Sidibe, at least showed each option could be capable down low. The 12 blocks between them wasn’t because of the height advantage, Boeheim said, but because they were in the right spots.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe Orange needs quick maturation from both centers because Tyler Lydon and Taurean Thompson, the pair which combined to play 98 percent of Syracuse’s minutes at center last season, per Kenpom.com, are gone. Lydon entered the NBA Draft and Thompson transferred to Seton Hall. That left new assistant Allen Griffin with the team’s most unproven unit, a true freshman and a fourth-year whose multiple eye surgeries cut last season short after seven games. Last year, Chukwu totaled 12 points and did not play after Dec. 10.“I haven’t played in a while,” Chukwu said. “I need to get in the groove of playing again.”Andy Mendes | Digital Design EditorIn practice, Griffin works with Chukwu and Sidibe on timing blocks. They functioned as an effective one-two punch in the paint. Though Chukwu struggled offensively, committing three turnovers and scoring only two points, he altered other shots not recorded on the stat sheet.“The bigs definitely surprised me,” said freshman guard Howard Washington, who scored 11 points. “They protected the rim. … Bourama had like six blocks, and that really impressed me.”With about 13 minutes remaining against SNHU, Chukwu posted up a defender several inches shorter. With his back to the basket, he spun and lofted a right-handed hook for an and-1. But he missed the ensuing free throw and dropped to 0-for-11 career. Sidibe shot 4-for-5 from the free-throw line.Fouling also became a problem for Chukwu on the defensive end. He committed two fouls in the first 38 seconds of the second half to get to four total and though Boeheim raised his hands and shook his head at the referee each time, it seemingly altered how he wanted to use his centers.“On both ends, he’s still a work in progress,” Griffin said of Chukwu. “Tonight he was very active, especially defensively. This is just game one for him.”It is clear both Chukwu and Sidibe will need more opportunities with the basketball in their hands and backs to the basket. Syracuse’s offense also needs its inside presences to smooth out the clunky play when the ball finds them near the basket. They combined for eight turnovers, many of which came from traveling violations.“I’m trying to be more patient,” Sidibe said. “I know I’m over-quick sometimes.”Sidibe accumulated five blocks through nine minutes of first-half play alone, and he stuffed the layup attempt of the first driver who came his way. His presence served as a message. He and Chukwu offered an early glimpse of what Syracuse’s unproven frontcourt can be — and needs to be — against stiffer competition.“That’s why we’re here,” Sidibe said. “We have to do that.” Comments Published on November 1, 2017 at 10:42 pm Contact Sam: [email protected] | @Sam4TR Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
*