After a disappointing first half, Syracuse regained composure to readily defeat the Cal State-Los Angeles Golden Eagles, 79-49, at the Carrier Dome Tuesday.
The Orange, ranked No. 5 in the country, looked to dominate a smaller, less experienced CSULA team early on. But missed shots and poor defense allowed the Golden Eagles to come within seven points of Syracuse after the first half.
Once the second half started, though, SU began to show its true colors by forcing multiple turnovers and making shots. Fifth year senior guard Scoop Jardine, who was held scoreless in the first half, came out on fire in the second. Three minutes into the half, Jardine had nine points, four assists and two steals.
“We should be a very efficient team and take good shots going forward,” Jardine said.
While Jardine played well in the second half, second year center Fab Melo made his presence felt in the first half, scoring most of his career high and team-leading 12 points in the first period. Melo, who went to China over the summer to play with the Brazil national team, not only looked more confident than last year, he looked faster too.
“I felt lighter and I was moving better out on the court.” Melo said. “I can run on the court and get rebounds. I’m moving better; my reaction’s better. And when I see daylight, I’m going for it and attacking.”
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim also expressed his satisfaction with the young center’s performance, saying he had a better understanding of the game and showed a lot of advancement from last year.
Melo finished the night with eight rebounds and two blocked shots to go along with his 12 points.
Tuesday night also marked the first game for SU freshmen Rakeem Christmas, Michael Carter-Williams and Trevor Cooney. Christmas started the game and instantly made his presence felt, scoring five points with six rebounds and three blocked shots. Carter-Williams played a large role with his crisp passing, finishing with five assists and six points. Cooney, who saw the least action of the three, showed off his long-range skills, hitting one long three-pointer and a couple of long two-pointers. He finished with seven points on the night.
“I think Michael [Carter-Williams] can play and I think Rakeem [Christmas] helps us,” Boeheim said. “He [Christmas] can rebound the ball and I think he will get better as the season goes along, as will Michael.
“I think offensively – well, it takes a little while to get going offensively,” Boeheim said. “We didn’t shoot it very well in the first half. We did a little bit better in the second half.”
Syracuse came out of the gate a little slow, but was able to assert their dominance as a Top-25 team with their second half performance. The perennial playmakers for the Orange, Joseph and Jardine, as well as a nice performance by Melo and Waiters, showed that this is a team that needs work, but has a lot of potential.