The SU-Bucknell game was wrapped up by 8:43 EST. We’re talking 100 minutes from opening tip to final horn. And thank goodness for that because the excitement level in the Dome was approximately that of the WCNY TelAuc. Much of this was due to the Bucknell game plan. They clearly were trying to shut down the SU fast break and force the Orange to score in the half-court. Thus they did not really go after their offensive boards much, instead sending at least two guys back on defense as soon as a shot went up. They also were methodical on offense, limiting themselves to high-percentage passes that would not result in steals and quick Orange points. SU did have ten steals (out of 12 Bucknell turnovers) but even when these occurred, the Bison did their darnedest to get back on defense and make SU play a half-court game.
And for the most part Bucknell was successful in this approach. While there is no “fast break points” category in any official boxscore, I can only think of one real successful breakaway — the Michael Carter-Williams steal and slightly awkward dunk. There were more failures (that I can recall) than successes for SU on the break: one where Scoop tried to feed Triche with too nifty a bounce pass, one where Waiters got harassed into a missed layup, one where Kris Joseph was sort of in between wanting to dunk and wanting to lay it up, and ultimately tossed up a little floater that fell off the rim. Most of these happened because the SU players unexpectedly found Bison in their way when trying to run. In fact, SU only had three dunks for the entire game: MCW’s, the alley-oop to CJ Fair when Bucknell went zone, and the nice play by Southerland and Melo where Fab was being fronted in the lane so he held the defender off while Southerland lofted the entry pass over his head, and Fab grabbed it and slammed. The result of Bucknell’s dogged determination to stop SU from running was a sleepy halfcourt game which SU nonetheless dominated from start to finish.
I think the lack of high-energy, excitement-generating plays may have contributed to the players’ somewhat lower energy on defense, particularly in the 2nd half when the Bison hit a few open threes thanks to slow rotation by the Orange perimeter defenders. But even though Bucknell cut the lead down to 13 at one point, there was never any serious question how this game would go. File this one under “methodical”. On offense, SU took what was given them by their opponent — in this case, a lot of jump shots, but good ones, for the most part not tightly contested thanks to crisp ball movement and the SU guards’ ability to penetrate and kick. On defense, the length and presence of the Orange defenders clearly rattled the Bison, who missed a number of point-blank shots. The most thrilling plays of the game for SU came on the defensive end, as Melo and Rakeem Christmas each had a couple of ridiculous blocked shots that they really had no business blocking. (Also, Keita’s missed slam would have been awesome if he hadn’t, you know, missed.)
So, ho-hum it was. Just another day at the office for the #1 team in the nation, beating up on a lesser squad that nevertheless has a good chance to make the tournament this season (as they are favored to win the assuredly one-bid Patriot League). You can’t take too much from this game, other than the players staying focused (mostly) and getting the job done. For my part, I am glad that even though I am currently in Syracuse, I opted for quality time with my parents in front of the flat-screen instead of a solo trek to the Dome. I will, however, most certainly be at the Tulane game Thursday, so expect a first-person report later that night.