Thursday, November 7, 2013
No. 8 Syracuse ready to roll against Cornell
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Jim Boeheim is more than ready to start his 38th season at Syracuse. So are his No. 8 Orange.
Four exhibition games in August and two more in early November at the end of an extended preseason camp has everybody chomping at the bit in anticipation of Friday night's season opener in the Carrier Dome against Cornell.
"I think everybody is anxious to play and start the season," Boeheim said. "We've had pretty good preparation up until this point. I think we'll be ready to go Friday night."
With four freshmen and a new backcourt, the Orange have a lot to learn despite the extra practice time, which included a four-game trip to Canada in August. It showed in Tuesday night's 81-46 exhibition win over Ryerson.
"I think some of the younger players have not adjusted to coming off the bench and being ready to go," said Boeheim, second all-time in Division I with 920 victories. "We had a couple of freshmen in there. They both went to the same side on defense twice and gave up two wide-open 3s. I think some of those things are things that we need to think about."
Freshman Tyler Ennis takes over at point guard in place of Michael Carter-Williams, who left in the spring after his sophomore year and has made an immediate impact in the NBA with three superlative games to start his pro career. Trevor Cooney will slide into the other guard slot in place of four-year starter Brandon Triche, who graduated.
Ennis had seven points, five assists and four steals against Ryerson. His value is immeasurable.
"He's important for our team," Boeheim said. "I told him at halftime he has to be a little more aggressive offensively. When I tell him something, he does it. That's a good trait to have. He's a key guy. He's a mature freshman. He's still a freshman. He's going to make mistakes. He understands the position as well as any other freshman."
Syracuse leads the all-time series against Cornell 87-31 and carries a 33-game win streak against the Big Red into the contest. Cornell's last victory in the longtime series was a 94-82 triumph on Dec. 4, 1968 at Barton Hall in Ithaca.
"Cornell is a disciplined team, but during the season opener we should be coming out hard and playing well." Ennis said. "Coach wants me to be a vocal leader. I know I am a young guy, but the position calls for me to be a leader on the court."
It's safe to say Ennis will be under a microscope from the opening tip. He doesn't seem the least bit fazed.
"I see a lot of confidence in his play," said 6-foot-8 senior forward C.J. Fair, the Orange's leading scorer and rebounder last season. "He is a smart player and rarely makes the wrong decision. I'm having fun playing with him, and I'm eager to see how he grows as a point guard."
In their first year in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Orange return three starters from last year's 30-10 team that made it to the Final Four: Fair, voted preseason ACC Player of the Year; 6-9 junior forward Rakeem Christmas; and 6-9 sophomore center Dajuan Coleman. Add 6-10 senior Baye Moussa Keita, and Syracuse has a nice core of big bodies and long arms to guard the paint in Boeheim's 2-3 zone defense.
Cornell is coming off a 13-18 season (5-9 Ivy League), and fourth-year head coach Bill Courtney has had to replace four starters to open the season. Returning first-team All-Ivy forward Shonn Miller continues to recover from an injury that sidelined him in the preseason.