Just got back a little while ago from the Dome, where I watched SU follow up their impressive showing in New York with a not-quite-as-impressive-but-still-darn-good game against probably the second-best team in New York State (prove me wrong, Siena). The Orange topped Cornell by 15 in a game that was close for a while but in which SU’s athleticism and strength eventually wore down the Big Red, resulting in a fairly relaxed second half.
This was my first trip to the Dome this season, and my brother and I were shocked as we walked up that we were not being accosted by at least a few guys offering “Who needs tickets?” The reason was soon clear: undercover sting operation! We saw a very sad fellow get caught by the cops trying to scalp his tickets outside Archbold Gym. He tried to sell his tickets to an undercover dressed as a fan (SU jersey, etc). What was a little crazy was that he didn’t just get a citation and a “move along”. No, they actually cuffed him and led him off towards a patrol car. Clearly the other sellers had fled the scene before we even got there.
The big stories you will read about tomorrow will focus on the exploits of the local backcourt: Brandon Triche, with his career-high 21 points, and Andy Rautins who tallied 18, hitting five three-pointers, each one seemingly in response to a Cornell three or mini-run. (Side question: is it within NCAA regulations for the Triches and/or the Rautinses to have the team over for a big Thanksgiving dinner this week?) Some will say the defense wasn’t as crisp as the UNC game, but I think that’s false. Cornell came in with an excellent offensive game plan. They moved the ball quickly and crisply, forcing the SU defenders to slide and recover, slide and recover. Frequently with enough ball movement and well-designed cuts they were able to get a man open enough to launch a shot, and they are a very good long-range shooting team. SU was shading towards Wittman on defense, and the rest of Cornell’s shooters stepped up for a while, but ultimately could not carry them to victory over the superior team. You could tell by about the middle of the second half that they were getting tired. SU made them work hard for nearly every shot they got in the first half, and although Cornell made substitutions approximately every time the whistle blew, it was clear that fatigue was setting in. They were not able to keep up their hot pace from the first half, and SU methodically pulled away.
Back to Triche for a moment. He looked supremely confident getting to the basket. While he did hit a few jumpers, his shot isn’t all that ‘pure’-looking — he’s got almost a two-handed set shot motion with a bit of a lean forward. He’s going to have trouble making that shot against bigger defenders. However, his drives to the basket are fearless and he is showing himself to be a solid finisher. (I can’t find any replays of his spread-legged drive and finger roll plus the foul against UNC — anyone have that on tape?) It’s a natural fit with his size and runningback frame. It’s easier for him to do this against Cornell than it will be against, say, Pitt. But the more he develops that ability now, the better chance he will have of being successful with it down the line. I’m in favor, as long as he uses his power wisely.
The sub-story of the game was Mookie Jones’ hissyfit. With about 5 minutes left in the game, and SU leading by a comfortable margin (around 20), Boeheim walked down the bench and motioned for Arinze — and only Arinze — to get in the game. Apparently this didn’t sit well with Mookie who got up off the bench, took a few steps around behind it while jawing at (presumably) the coach, threw his headband down on the floor in anger and stormed off to the locker room. It’s a safe bet that he was pissed to not be playing in the game by that stage. From one perspective, he’s right to be frustrated — it’s kind of silly for Boeheim to still be sticking with the seven-man rotation at such a late moment in the contest. He didn’t come to SU to sit through November games against overmatched teams, and he is itching for a chance to show what he can do and earn more meaningful minutes. But no matter how justified his frustration may have been, there is nothing that excuses that kind of reaction. It’s ridiculous to show up your coaches and teammates that way. If Boeheim says you sit, then you sit. (Historically he has based playing time on how well you look in practice anyway.) The squad seems to be gelling on an emotional level, with egos in check and everyone playing for the team first. Mookie is apparently not on that wavelength. A little while after Mookie left the bench, Z Sims went into the locker room after him; Jones eventually did return to watch the end of the game, which is a good move on his part and a good sign that maybe he realized he let his emotions get the better of him and that he was wrong to act how he did. Hopefully this all blows over. Hopefully. We have had just about enough drama from the hoops team in recent seasons.
Other than that, I was more or less impressed with everyone in an Orange uniform. Wes Johnson had a quiet 15 points and 10 rebounds. He just produced slowly and steadily all game long. A Motenesque performance. Scoop didn’t show much but he didn’t have to, with Triche playing as well as he did. Arinze was also quiet, but really it was Rick Jackson who played the bulk of the minutes in the paint, being more mobile than Arinze and a better choice to anchor the 2-3 against the rapid movement of the Cornell offense. This meant extra minutes for Kris Joseph, who played very well despite catching a case of the Craig Forths and missing three or four layups. He did a lot of damage from the foul line, which was great to see considering he shot under 50% last season. He played 32 minutes, which I would guess to be a career high. He was also very active on the defensive wing (5 steals) on a night when SU needed him to close out on opposing shooters. Even Dashonte Riley looked OK in his limited minutes. He needs work offensively but he’s clearly got the instincts to be a good shot-blocker; he should at least end up with a Jeremy McNeil kind of career, and has the potential for much more.
Decent crowd in the Dome; though not particularly loud, they made their presence felt on a few occasions, most notably the half-court alleyoop to Joseph late in the 2nd half but also at key moments early in the game as SU was struggling to maintain a solid lead. A bit of a letdown after the electric atmosphere at MSG, but above-average for an early-season nonconference game. No band, but a reasonable number of students stuck around before going on holiday. One neat thing I noticed for the first time (though it may have been done in past seasons) was the dance team standing on the sidelines all around the court during the national anthem, translating the lyrics into sign language. It was a nice touch.
Finally, among the ads displayed on the video boards along the sidelines was one for this product:
They are rich in cheesy goodness and are a perfect choice for your Thanksgiving dinner entree. They also go great when sprinkled into a bowl of SU Athletics Champion Flakes.