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Notebook: Geno Thorpe debuts, other notes from Syracuse’s 84-59 exhibition win over Southern Connecticut State

first_img Published on November 6, 2017 at 10:54 pm Contact Tomer: tdlanger@syr.edu | @tomer_langer Geno Thorpe’s introduction for his graduate season at Syracuse involved an untucked jersey. As Thorpe entered SU’s second and final exhibition game, an 84-59 win Monday night over Southern Connecticut State, he lightly jogged out to midcourt five-and-a-half minutes into the game. He fidgeted with his white jersey, then tucked it in before scurrying to find his defensive assignment as the Orange trailed by eight to a Division II opponent. The untucked jersey epitomized Thorpe’s play Monday night in his Syracuse debut: He was slightly off, a step or two slower than he would prefer on drives and one-on-one matchups, but he tacked together a few plays to cap off a fairly productive outing. Within his first few minutes at SU, he forced a pair of steals and dropped in a layup, helping the Orange begin to claw back from an early deficit. Thorpe, who turns 23 on Wednesday, is Syracuse’s most experienced player. In his first SU game, he scored six points, dished out four assists and grabbed four steals across 22 minutes on the floor. Yet head coach Jim Boeheim said Thorpe is still healing from an ankle injury that decelerated his progression into the SU backcourt. “He just doesn’t have his push off of his ankle yet,” Boeheim said. “He’s just has a couple of days of practice really, in the last 14, so I think it will take him a while.”A year ago, Thorpe led South Florida in scoring. His 15.1 points per game would have placed second on SU, though he did not play in Syracuse’s first exhibition because of his ankle injury. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAgainst the Owls at the Carrier Dome, four days before Syracuse’s season opener against Cornell, SU needed life early. In the first half, Syracuse swapped out of its half-court 2-3 zone into a full-court press for the second consecutive game. What resulted was a Thorpe steal that produced a layup at the other end. Later, he showed that he is not at his full self. On a left-handed drive from the left wing, the ball slipped out of Thorpe’s hands and drifted out of bounds. He clapped his hands. He then missed three of his four 3-point attempts, as well as a layup. “Physically, I feel pretty ready,” Thorpe said. “Right now my ankle is still working back to 100 percent.”Backcourt mate Frank Howard, who scored 19 points, said Thorpe can create his own shot, get to the basket in one-on-one situations and “help me get off ball a little bit.” Howard acknowledged that Thorpe’s ankle is clearly preventing him from being at full strength, though he said Thorpe played well given his status. Thorpe knocked down one second-half 3-pointer, shot 2-for-6 from the field and earned one trip to the charity stripe. By the time his early jitters faded, he flashed a few smiles. He perked up from the SU bench several times amid SU’s 60-point second half. When freshman forward Bourama Sidibe blocked a shot around the 3-point line, causing the ball to float up and land in the SCSU bench, Thorpe giggled with Howard. “He’s good with the ball,” Boeheim said. “He doesn’t have his explosiveness and he needs that. It will probably take some time.”Paul Schlesinger | Asst. Photo EditorOnly the center rotation is setAll nine scholarship players played at least 12 minutes in the game, with no player eclipsing Tyus Battle’s team-high 29 minutes. Boeheim is still looking for the right group to emerge.“We just have to keep giving everybody an opportunity and see,” Boeheim said. “I think our centers are set. We know what we’re going to do there. Now we’ve got to figure out what else we’ve got. And it’s (going) to take a little bit of time I think.”Boeheim was largely happy with how his centers played in the exhibition. After men’s basketball media day Boeheim said he wanted the two centers, Paschal Chukwu and Bourama Sidibe, to split the minutes at center. They did basically just that with Sidibe playing 20 minutes and Chukwu 18.Chukwu got the start but was subbed out after the Owls made two 3-pointers from the same spot in the left corner. Boeheim said that Sidibe is better than Chukwu at closing out in the corners. Despite that, the SU head coach was happy with what he saw from his sisters. “Paschal and Bourama are doing a pretty good job inside,” Boeheim said. “I think they had about 19 rebounds tonight between them. Blocked some shots, I think they’re doing what we would like them to do.” SU better equipped for press this yearBoeheim hasn’t had the most straightforward relationship with pressing on defense. Two years ago in the Elite Eight, it fueled Syracuse’s improbable second-half comeback against Virginia. But the Orange didn’t use it much last year, as Boeheim said that he thought good teams would figure out how to crack it. Syracuse used the press to get back in the game after a slow start in the first exhibition matchup against Southern New Hampshire. SU deployed it again early and often throughout this second preseason game. “We couldn’t score,” Boeheim said. “So we might as well try and get a turnover and see if we can get something that way, that would help.” Even though the offense’s struggles were the initial cause for the press to be used, Boeheim said he does think that the Orange will be able to use the press more because it has two capable shot blockers. The only player who averaged more than one block per game last year was 6-foot-9 Tyler Lydon. Sidibe and Chukwu are both taller and better shot blockers. Twice, Sidibe played center field on the press. When the inbound pass would go over the top toward halfcourt, Sidibe stepped up and broke it up. On one play SCSU was throwing in from midcourt. The Orange was caught cheating into the backcourt and Owls player Luke Beesley slipped past the SU defense. He went up for the dunk but Chukwu hustled back, met him at the top of his jump and swatted the ball away.“We’ve been working on it, we’ve spent a lot of time on our press,” Boeheim said. “Just think of all those plays they either stopped or went back. Or we got a block. Or they missed a shot. And we didn’t have that last year.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more