first_imgSpanning what seemed like the entire width of the court, the 2012 Syracuse zone defense was unveiled. The five players, none shorter than 6-feet-4-inches, fortified a hoop, a 3-point line and essentially half of Jim Boeheim Court.Those attempting to intrude — in this case the visitors from Division-II Pace — faced a forest-like collection of arms that formed a wingspan unparalleled in college basketball this season. It is quite possible that Boeheim’s zone has never looked mightier in any of his previous 36 seasons.“I wouldn’t know how to attack it,” junior forward James Southerland said. “But I know they have a hard time getting the ball in the middle because everyone is so long out there. I heard them getting frustrated out there.”Syracuse, the preseason No. 9 team in the country, cruised from start to finish in a 99-63 dismantling of Pace at the Carrier Dome in front of 7,145 Thursday night in its first of two exhibition games before the season opener on Nov. 9. Boeheim tinkered with lineups throughout, working in his two freshmen and giving extended minutes to players whose roles were limited a year ago. But regardless of the combinations he conjured, the Orange was simply too fast, too tall, too strong and too good for the Setters.Despite the departures of four players crucial to last year’s Elite Eight run, Syracuse is equally as deep and arguably more imposing on the defensive end of the floor.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe trio of C.J. Fair, Rakeem Christmas and freshman DaJuan Coleman manned the back line of the zone to start the game for the Orange, collectively forming an impenetrable wall that allowed Syracuse to take an early 20-4 lead. Together their six arms — arms that extended far beyond those of Pace’s two 6-foot-6-inch forwards — blocked, battered and bullied any opponent that ventured too close to the hoop.The Setters managed only 10 points in the paint in the first half, while the Orange finished with eight first-half blocks.“All we do is defense,” Christmas said. “And it’s hard to score against us.”As frustrated as Pace was on the offensive end of the floor, it was at a similar disadvantage defensively against Syracuse’s supreme length. Michael Carter-Williams, a 6-foot-6-inch sophomore guard, toyed with much smaller defenders from the opening tip. He scored the first five points of the game for the Orange on drives to the hoop that were equal parts effortless and effective.And when Syracuse did miss, which wasn’t often in a game it shot 58 percent from the field, its interior players played volleyball with one another on the offensive glass. Twenty-two second-chance points were punctuated by a thunderous put-back dunk from sophomore forward Rakeem Christmas off a missed 3-pointer by Brandon Triche that even caused Boeheim to raise his eyebrows in awe on the sideline.“Our size has got to be one of our strengths,” assistant coach Mike Hopkins said. “Rakeem is so athletic.”While Triche and Carter-Williams held down the guard spots, each taking turns at point guard and shooting guard, the front court was a rotation of six players that will all play roles for the Orange during the regular season.Coleman, a native of Jamesville, was aggressive in his Syracuse debut. His size and strength at 6-foot-9, 288 pounds were complimented by impressive agility. He finished with 11 points, six rebounds and three blocks, highlighted by a traditional three-point play in the first half that he punctuated with a primal yell.When asked after the game if that was his welcome-to-Syracuse moment, Coleman grinned sheepishly and said with a laugh, “Yeah, it was.”Joining him up front were Christmas, Fair, Southerland, freshman Jerami Grant and junior Baye Moussa Keita. They rotated in and out frequently in the second half, as Boeheim manipulated lineups, and the result was sloppy play at times that is to be expected early on.“There will be many different combinations all year long,” Boeheim said.But while the half-court offense lacked polish, the Orange appeared in mid-season form in transition. All five players for Syracuse — regardless of who they were — showed the quickness to run the floor and finish impressively at the rim with highlight-reel dunks.So when Carter-Williams blocked a 3-point attempt early in the second half that led to a towering dunk by Southerland on a fast break the other way, a glimpse of the full package was offered.And it is certainly impressive.“I think we’re already good at just getting out and running,” Carter-Williams said. “I think we’ll give a lot of teams trouble.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on November 1, 2012 at 9:06 pm Contact Michael: [email protected] | @Michael_Cohen13last_img

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