Orange battle Terriers in season opener
Syracuse, NY (Sports Network) – Gearing up for the fifth edition of the BCA
Invitational, the 20th-ranked Syracuse Orange open the doors of the Carrier
Dome this evening to do battle against fellow Empire State squad St. Francis.
The Orange, who finished the 2005-06 campaign with a record of 23-12, were a
mere 7-9 against the rest of the Big East Conference but still managed to
make quite a bit of noise at the conference tournament where they ran the
table thanks to a 65-61 triumph over Pittsburgh. That win propelled Syracuse
and head coach Jim Boeheim, who is entering his 31st season with the program,
into the NCAA Tournament where the Orange were turned back in the first round
by a score of 66-58 be Texas A&M.
As for the Terriers, they were a mere 10-17 last year and 7-11 versus the rest
of the Northeast Conference. After the first 13 games of the season the team
had just three wins and consequently closed out the 2005-06 campaign with
three straight setbacks to the likes of Sacred Heart, Monmouth and Long
With respect to the all-time series between these two schools on the hardwood,
this is just the second game between them, with the Orange taking a 73-53
victory over the Terriers back in 2000 in the Dome. The winner of this
contest will take on the loser of the UTEP/Penn affair on Saturday.
The top returning scorer for the Terriers this season is Allan Sheppard who put
up 11.6 ppg a year ago. Playing just under 27 minutes per outing, Sheppard was
also responsible for close to five rebounds per game for St. Francis, which
placed him second on the squad. Of the players on last year’s unit, only two
had more assists than turnovers, and Sheppard was not one of them, which is why
the team placed last in the Northeast Conference and 278th in the nation with a
mere 11.8 assists per game. Jamaal Womack was an exception to the rule however,
which is why St. Francis is expecting big things from him in 2006-07. Womack
led the team with 73 dishes over the course of 27 games, which was great for
his teammates and also prevented him from shooting the ball too much. Shooting
the ball seems to be his trouble spot these days, after making a mere 33.5
percent of his field goal attempts en route to 5.9 ppg. Robert St. James should
be a useful player on the inside, after making close to 54 percent of his field
goal tries last year, but letting him handle the ball too much would be a
mistake seeing as how he converted a mere 48.6 percent at the stripe.
Without Gerry McNamara to lean on in rough times, the Orange will now have to
turn their attention to players like forwards Terrence Roberts and Demetris
Nichols, along with the ever-persistent Eric Devendorf in the backcourt.
Nichols started all 35 games for the team a year ago and was second in scoring
behind McNamara with his 13.3 ppg. Insistent on trying to make himself an
outside threat, Nichols took more than half of his field goal attempts from
behind the three-point line, where he made 36.3 percent, but against the rest
of the Big East that number dropped to only 29.2 percent. Roberts, another
starter the entire way, tallied 10.7 ppg on the front line and was also
responsible for a team-best 7.6 rpg. But the real force in the paint has to be
Darryl Watkins (7.1 ppg) who disregarded his own scoring opportunities to
become a tough inside player who cleared better than seven boards per game and
also rejected 99 shots. Devendorf (12.2 ppg) will now be the primary guy who
will be responsible for distributing the ball, although he had just 82 assists
against 81 turnovers a year ago while McNamara was credited with 207 assists
over 35 games. One area in which the Orange have to focus more is at the free-
throw line where they were last in the conference and 290th nationally at a
mere 64.3 percent.
Syracuse might not be one of the elite teams in the Big East this season, but
against the Terriers this day they are head and shoulders above what St.
Francis will be seeing in the Northeast Conference in 2006-07.