Syracuse and San Diego State were going to engage in a defensive struggle wherever the game was played.
So when both schools agreed to play outdoors, along the gusty shores of the Pacific Ocean, the fate of the game had been sealed. Scoring would be hard to come by.
Fighting swirling winds and a high sky on the flight deck of the decommissioned USS Midway, Syracuse breezed by San Diego State, 62-49, in the most impressive win to date of any team in the preseason Top 25. Veteran leaders C.J. Fair and Brandon Triche chipped in 17 points apiece, as the Orange worked around 18 team turnovers to turn away the Aztecs.
Syracuse now owns the most dominant defensive performance of college basketball’s opening weekend after limiting a San Diego State squad saturated with backcourt talent to 27-percent shooting from the floor and a 1 for 18 mark from 3-point range. In all, 12 steals and 10 blocked shots powered the defensive effort, as the Aztecs couldn’t manufacture points through the trees inside or through the breeze outside.
Tough Matchup for SDSU – There is no better formula for unnerving San Diego State than the combination of an outdoor climate and Syracuse’s rangy and elastic 2-3 zone. For a team whose success hinges on the play of its stellar backcourt, San Diego State understandably did not adapt well to the circumstances aboard the USS Midway. The winds and beaming sun effectively took the 3-point shot out of the equation—though the Aztecs futilely jacked up long-range shots anyway—and so SDSU had no choice but to play right into the teeth of the SU defense. San Diego State had two options on Sunday: either get beat by the elements on the perimeter or by Syracuse’s peerless size and length inside. The Aztecs ultimately did a lot of both.
An upset in the backcourt battle – At a huge disadvantage inside, San Diego State’s best chance in this game was by winning the backcourt battle, which decidedly favored the Aztecs on paper. Don’t tell that to Brandon Triche. The Syracuse senior was the best guard on the floor this afternoon, racking up 17 points (6 of 11 shooting), four assists and three steals while thoroughly outplaying the reigning Mountain West Conference Player of the Year. A dynamic playmaker on both ends of the floor, Triche played his most active and complete game in his Orange career. He was in attack mode from the opening tip, finally taking advantage of the physical tools he has never fully harnessed or exploited. On the other side, where was M.I.A. The Aztecs won’t beat any top-ten teams without the star junior guard playing at the top of his game.
Whistle Happy – The officials were sure to leave their imprint on this game. In total, 38 fouls were issued during the 40-minute game (23 on Syracuse, 15 on San Diego State). That’s almost one foul per minute for the math illiterate, far too many for a low-scoring game. There were missed [or miscalled] goaltending calls and misjudgments on who touched the ball last before it went out of bounds, but the fouls, for the most part, were handled properly. In fact, despite the bloated foul count, the officials let both teams play through contact.
Pacing – Don’t let the final score or the number of attempted free throw (52 by both teams) fool you. This game was played at an up-tempo, even helter skleter pace. Both teams, especially Syracuse, were out of control with the basketball; hence, the spike in fouls, turnovers and overall sloppy possessions. There were 148 total possessions in this game, yet only 18 assists (nine by each team). One area both Syracuse and San Diego State will want to work on in practice this week: ball movement.