November 14, 2007

Different styles lead to two wins

The Orange basketball team that pulled off a 97-89 victory over Siena on Monday night looked very different form the one that beat St. Joseph's, 72-69 the next night in the Carrier Dome.

Jim Boeheim took two different approaches to beat two different opponents and although neither game always looked like a lock, the Orange came out on top both times to start their season 2-0. Here are the differences between the two games, why they mattered, and why they worked.

Defense

Siena: Against Siena the Orange didn't show much defensive prowess, certainly not the lock-down 2-3 zone that Boeheim's teams are famous for. Siena put up an amazing 84 shots. To put their performance in perspective, only one team scored 89 or more points on the Orange last season (Notre Dame did it twice).

Siena had several open layup opportunities and never let the Orange pull away in the second half. Boeheim ripped the Orange for a poor defensive effort. Still, the Orange managed to score bunches of points in transition to hold on for the win despite not having an answer for a small and speedy Siena team.

St. Joe's: Whatever Boeheim said to his team after the Siena game, it made an impact. The Orange looked very improved on defense only a night later, holding a Hawks team that had dropped 86 points the night before to less than 70 in the Dome. With 12 minutes left in the game, the Orange even forced the Hawks to commit a shot-clock violation when they couldn't put up a shot against the tenacious zone defense.

The Hawks attempted only 54 shots on the night and Syracuse forced them to take 26 of them from behind the arc, where they made only 11. Syracuse did not allow nearly as many easy buckets to the Hawks as it did Siena. It turned the ball over only 17 times, six fewer than the number of turnovers against Siena.

Syracuse scored 17 fast-break points while surrendering only four.

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