Syracuse men’s basketball impresses before season’s start

SU men’s basketball impresses before start of the season

The Orange won their second exhibition against Saint Rose behind a dominant Judah Mintz performance.

Freshman center William Patterson (#21) tips the ball as Saint Rose junior forward Nuha Sagnia shoots during Wednesday's exhibition game at the JMA Wireless Dome.
Freshman center William Patterson (#21) tips the ball as Saint Rose junior forward Nuha Sagnia shoots during Wednesday’s exhibition game at the JMA Wireless Dome.

Hop on the Adrian Autry bandwagon now.

Syracuse men’s basketball took down Division II Saint Rose Golden Knights 86-61 for their second exhibition win before the start of the season. The Orange utilized their playmakers and after a dominant start, never looked back.

The game marked the return of sophomore guard Judah Mintz. Whispers of “he’s back” floated through the crowd upon his announcement in the starting lineup, and Mintz started quickly. The guard dished a spinning assist to junior center Naheem McLeod 20 seconds into the game.

Syracuse University vs Saint Rose Men's Basketball Exhibition Game
Joohee Na
Saint Rose players surround Syracuse center Naheem McLeod (#10) in a struggle for the ball.

As he did much of last season, Mintz used his physicality to score. The guard drew five first-half fouls, making nine of his 10 free throws. Syracuse shot just six free throws in their first exhibition game against Daemon, while Mintz led the Orange to a staggering 28 free throw attempts in this contest; he finished the contest shooting 14-16 from the foul line.

“I thought he was good,” head coach Adrian Autry said about the performance. However, just as one key player rejoined the team, another left.

The team announced before the game that junior forward Benny Williams would be suspended for an indefinite period of time. The team did not explain why Williams was suspended, and when asked, Autry did not go into any further detail. The forward scored 11 points in 25 minutes in SU’s game against Daemon.

Luckily, Williams’ frontcourt partner – sophomore forward Chris Bell – made up for his absence. Bell had an outstanding first half, finishing with 19 points in 17 minutes. This comes off as an improvement from a previous poor performance for Bell.

“He didn’t have it going the first game,” Autry said.

Bell himself commented on his mindset going into this game. “It’s really just trying to stay confident in everything you do. Don’t let missed shots or other things affect you.”

Bell was oftentimes the beneficiary of Saint Rose’s sloppy play. The Golden Knights turned the ball over 16 times – with Syracuse scoring 29 points off of those turnovers. The most impressive of these came off a diving pass from Mintz to Bell who finished the layup and got a flagrant foul call in the process.

Syracuse played fast and aggressively – a welcomed sight for those weary of Boeheim-era basketball. Coach Autry promises to shake up a Syracuse team that has been stagnant for far too long.
Still, the game was not perfect for the Orange.

Syracuse University vs Saint Rose Men's Basketball Exhibition Game
Joohee Na
Syracuse forward Chris Bell (#4) blocks a shot on net by Saint Rose’s Trey Boyd III (#3).

The backcourt tandem of sophomore guard JJ Starling and Mintz will certainly be a point of interest heading into the season. In SU’s first exhibition game, Starling was the lone ball handler and had an impressive 10-point, 6-assist outing. With Mintz back in the lineup, Starling struggled to distribute the ball as efficiently, finishing with a single assist and four turnovers.

“There’s gonna be games like that,” Starling said. “Whether I’m going or he [Mintz] is not going or vice versa… we just have to pick each other up.”

Defensively, the Orange were solid. Apart from their numerous forced turnovers, SU protected the paint, racking up seven blocks. Junior center Naheem McLeod finished with two blocks to go along with his twelve points and six rebounds.

There is reason to start getting excited about Orange basketball again. The journey to March begins now – and in Syracuse, optimism is in no short supply.

The Orange will face New Hampshire on Monday in the JMA Wireless Dome at 7 p.m., beginning their regular season schedule.