Syracuse, NY ― The Syracuse Orange took their first steps of the season on Monday and, much like a child learning to walk, there was excitement followed by some unsteady footing and nervous moments.
But even after squandering a good portion of a 23-point lead and teetering dangerously, the Orange steadied itself and came away with an 83-72 win over New Hampshire at the JMA Wireless Dome.
The Orange won’t get much of a chance to work on things as it takes the court again on Wednesday with a visit from the Canisius Golden Griffins.
While Syracuse opened the regular season on Monday, this will be Canisius’ first game of the year. The Golden Griffins have three starters back from a team that went 10-20 overall (8-12 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) last season.
Canisius is led by veteran coach Reggie Witherspoon, who enters his eighth season with the Griffins. Witherspoon also spent 14 years as the head coach at Buffalo. He has a 292-340 career coaching record.
Game time is scheduled for 7 pm and will be televised on ACCNX and ESPN+.
Here are 5 Key Things to Know about the matchup:
Opening night reviews
Let’s take a reviewer’s approach to Syracuse’s opening night at the Dome.
On the positive side, Justin Taylor played well, scoring 14 points and grabbing six rebounds. Quadir Copeland registered a double-double off the bench with 10 points and 13 boards. Maliq Brown put together a solid performance with 10 points, six rebounds and four steals.
On the negative side, Syracuse got sloppy with a 23-point lead and allowed New Hampshire to get within six midway through the second half. Chris Bell continued to struggle with his shot, making just one of his five 3-point attempts. The Orange held a mere six-rebound edge; UNH actually had more second-chance points (10) than Syracuse did (8).
On the plus side, the Orange had 13 steals. On the down side, Syracuse committed 11 turnovers. That allowed New Hampshire to equal Syracuse’s 18 points off turnovers; a category that Orange needs to win this season.
Syracuse did get out and run, scoring 22 fastbreak points. But in the halfcourt, there were struggles, especially as Syracuse went 5-for-21 on 3-pointers.
An Injured Griffin
Canisius will be without a returning starter who was expected to play a key role this season for tonight’s opener at Syracuse.
Xzavier Long, a 6-foot-7 junior, is out with a lower body injury, according to the school’s athletic communications office. Long appeared in 28 games last season and started 23 of them. He averaged 6.9 points and 5.9 rebounds last season.
Long had been named to the MAAC’s preseason third team.
There’s an NIL deal waiting for Syracuse sophomore Justin Taylor with the golf equipment company. For one, Taylor is reportedly an avid golfer. Secondly, Taylor makes a lot of shots.
Taylor, a 6-foot-6 forward, made two key shots in the second half of Syracuse’s win over New Hampshire on Monday. Both were 3-pointers and came when New Hampshire had cut SU’s lead down to eight and seven points midway through the second half.
Taylor went 2-for-3 from 3-point range for the game. Through SU’s two exhibitions and Monday’s opener, Taylor is now 8-for-15 on 3-pointers.
Through those same three games, the rest of Syracuse’s players have combined to go 9-for-50 from 3-point range. In Monday’s wi over UNH, the Orange; other than Taylor, made three out of 18 shots from the arc.
This Griff is Golden
Canisius’ top player is Tahj Staveskie, a 6-foot sophomore who earned All-Rookie team honors in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference last season.
Staveskie, a native of Sandusky, Ohio, led all MAAC freshmen in scoring (12.4 ppg), assists (2.8 per game), 3-pointers made (1.5 per game) and 3-point percentage (30.1%). He received the MAAC’s freshman of the week award six times.
This year, Staveskie was named to the MAAC preseason all-league team by the Blue Ribbon Yearbook. He is the main reason why the same magazine listed Canisius as the second-best backcourt in the MAAC.
Free throws matter
While Syracuse is struggling from 3-point range, the Orange has shot the ball extremely well from the foul line. And that will probably become really important at times this year.
In the win over New Hampshire, the Orange made 81.5% of their free throws, going 22-for-27 at the line. Judah Mintz led the parade to the charity, hitting nine of his 11 attempts.
In the two exhibitions, Syracuse went 5-for-6 (Daemen) and 30-for-38 (St. Rose). That’s a three-game total of 57-for-71 (80.2%).
Netherlands back in the Dome
Well, Jesse Edwards hasn’t returned from West Virginia, but the Netherlands will be represented at the Dome tonight.
Canisius’ roster includes two players from the Netherlands in 6-foot-9 sophomore Youri Fritz and 6-6 senior Siem Uijtendaal.
Fritz missed the last 20 games of the 2022-23 season after suffering a knee injury. He is back and cleared to play. An old-school style post player, Fritz averaged 2.1 points and 2.6 rebounds per game last season.
Uijtendaal, a native of Amsterdam, played for the same club team; BC Apollo, that Edwards did when he was a teenager. He made 41.7% of his 3-point shots last season.
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