Syracuse starts Maui Invitational Tournament with loss

SU starts Maui Invitational Tournament with loss

The Orange men’s basketball fell to No.7 Tennessee 73-56 in the opening game.

Naheem McLeod #10 of the Syracuse Orange dribbles past J.P. Estrella #13 (L) and Jordan Gainey #2 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the first half of the game at SimpliFi Arena on November 20, 2023 in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Naheem McLeod tries to dribble past J.P. Estrella and Jordan Gainey of the Tennessee Volunteers during the first half of the game on Monday.

Syracuse fell to No.7 Tennessee 73-56 in the opening game of the Maui Invitational Tournament. The Orange were handed their first loss of the season at the hands of the Volunteers, and Syracuse’s inexperience showed.

Here are three takeaways from the first of three games ‘Cuse will play in the Aloha State.

Syracuse competes in spurts

Syracuse has shown its potential through periods of their first four games of the season, but also intervals of panic.

SU went toe to toe with one of the best teams in the country for 30 minutes, yet struggled to close out halves. While there were moments of excitement for the Orange faithful in both frames, UT used their physicality to their advantage to shut down any of Syracuse’s momentum.

‘Cuse was held to just seven points combined in the last five minutes of the two halves and were outscored by 14. Sophomore guard Judah Mintz was not on the court to end the first half with two fouls, adding to the struggles.

The Orange must find a second court general in addition to Mintz to take better care of the basketball. Six of Syracuse’s eight first half turnovers came when Mintz was off the court and sophomore guard J.J. Starling did not show confidence leading the backcourt in his absence.

SU gifts second-chance opportunities

While the holiday season is soon approaching, Syracuse has prematurely gift-wrapped second chances to opponents to start the season.

In the game versus the Vols, the Orange gave up 13 offensive rebounds, adding on to the whopping 40 they surrendered in their first three matches. Even though junior center Naheem McLeod was more of a presence in the post today with four blocked shots, he continues to lack the positional awareness to bring down rebounds.

Some may argue ‘Cuse’s best lineup is without the 7-foot-4 center on the court, and the Florida State transfer has some work to do to help the team’s struggle so far on the glass.

Inexperience will bring growing pains

Head coach Adrian Autry’s team is one of the youngest in the country, ranking 293rd in collegiate playing experience according to A new coach also brings new philosophies, but fans will expect results sooner rather than later to uphold “The Orange Standard.”

Syracuse escaped a loss versus Colgate last week but must take advantage of their strong non-conference schedule upcoming to bolster a potential return to the NCAA.

Autry’s team has yet to put a full 40-minute performance together this season, but hopefully for his squad, these kinds of matchups will prepare them for conference play starting in a few weeks.