Syracuse takes on Pace in exhibition game as team works to jell together

September 17, 2020

first_img Published on November 1, 2012 at 1:54 am Contact Michael: mjcohe02@syr.edu | @Michael_Cohen13 Facebook Twitter Google+ Twenty-five years have passed since Syracuse opened the regular season against a ranked opponent, with the last time occurring back in 1987. It was a year in which a Lebanese center led the team in scoring, a future No. 1 overall pick led the team in rebounding and the top-ranked Orange began the year with a loss to No. 1 North Carolina in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic.Long gone are Rony Seikaly and Derrick Coleman, but in their place is yet another Top-10 team that will begin the season against a ranked opponent in San Diego State on Nov. 9.Up first, though, is a pair of exhibition games, beginning with Thursday’s matchup against Division-II Pace in the Carrier Dome at 7 p.m. And for the first time in 25 years, ever since that 1987 season, the exhibition games take on added importance as the Orange prepares for a much higher-quality opponent to open the year in the Battle on the Midway.“Without a doubt (they’re important),” sophomore guard Trevor Cooney said. “Especially this year coming out and playing a tough team like San Diego State our first time. So we have to take these two games even more seriously than you normally would.”The main challenge against Pace and then against Bloomsburg on Sunday will be finding continuity and cohesion after Syracuse lost four critical players, three of which were starters, from last year’s team that reached the Elite Eight.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textNot only will younger players be adjusting to more prominent roles — like Cooney, who redshirted last year, and fellow sophomore guard Michael Carter-Williams, who played sparingly — but two new faces in freshmen Jerami Grant and DaJuan Coleman must adjust to the collegiate level quickly, as both are expected to be part of the rotation this season.“Just being a freshman, not really knowing how the atmosphere is going to be, playing in a huge arena (is different),” senior Brandon Triche said. “I’m sure they haven’t played in something like the Carrier Dome, where it can fit 35,000 or so.”Assistant coach Mike Hopkins said he will look most closely at Coleman’s defense on Thursday night. As with any freshman that comes to Syracuse, including Grant, the biggest adjustment is learning the proper rotations and principles of Boeheim’s trademark 2-3 zone.This is especially important after SU lost Fab Melo, last year’s Big East Defensive Player of the Year, to the NBA.“I think the biggest thing is just executing the things that we’ve been going over,” Hopkins said. “How to play in a zone, and really concentrate and focus on the things that make the system work, which are positions in a zone.”Triche said that after weeks of playing against each other in practice, Thursday’s game is a great opportunity for the team to begin to jell as a unit. He pointed to himself as a player who will take on a bigger “go-to” leadership role in his fourth and final season for the Orange.He and Carter-Williams will likely share time at the point guard position this season, with Triche playing the role of savvy veteran and Carter-Williams his budding understudy. Already, Triche has been noticeably more vocal in practice than he was on the court last season.“I think it’s strange that I’ll be able to walk out there and be one of the leaders of the team,” Triche said. “In the past few years, I wasn’t really a leader.”And after three years of playing for Boeheim, Triche has adopted his head coach’s sentiments in regard to preseason rankings: He agrees that they do not matter. Triche said Syracuse is aware of San Diego State’s athleticism, but other than that, nothing can be determined this early in the season.All he knows is that the Aztecs are of a different class than Albany, Northern Iowa and Fordham — the teams Syracuse opened the season against over the past three years — so the Orange must be ready.And that starts with Pace on Thursday night.Said Triche: “I think these exhibition games will definitely be beneficial.” Commentslast_img

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