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Thursday, Nov 02, 2017 at 2:35 am

Men’s Basketball Presses SNHU in First Exhibition Game

By Chris Thomsen

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Jim Boeheim returned to the huddle with 11:15 left in the first half. The program that he had built was down by five to Southern New Hampshire University.

This exhibition game still mattered to the 72-year-old, so he decided to debut what may be a staple of this year’s Orange defense: a full-court press.

“We got a couple of turnovers right away,” Boeheim said. “You don’t always get that, but we did get them.”

The Orange came out of the break and followed their coach’s orders, forcing six turnovers in just over two minutes. Boeheim’s decision sparked a 22-0 run that sealed an 84-54 victory over the Penmen.

Syracuse’s size gave it the defensive advantage over Southern New Hampshire. But the Penmen were dominating Boeheim’s zone, shooting 50 percent from three-point range in the first nine minutes. The Orange was a measly 4-for-13 in the same timeframe.

The full-court press solved both Syracuse’s passive perimeter defense and its shooting woes.

“We weren’t really getting anything done on offense,” Boeheim said. “We were shooting jumpers. We weren’t getting good movements. So the press speeds it up a bit.”

Freshman Marek Dolezaj led the Orange with five steals in his Carrier Dome debut, while sophomore Paschal Chukwu and incomer Bourama Sidibe both had a game-high six blocks. In total, Syracuse had 10 steals and 16 blocks while forcing 20 turnovers.

Those plays turned into points. Tyus Battle led SU with 20 points and five assists, while freshman Oshae Brissett scored 17 points while shooting 60 percent from the field. Even Frank Howard ended with 15 points, which would have been a career-high if not for the game’s exhibition status.

“We’re building our identity,” Howard said. “We want to be fast-paced, get up and down, push the ball, press. We want to be kind of that team. We’ve got a lot of athletic guys.  That’s the identity we’re trying to form.”

The question remains: will a full-court press become mainstay of this year’s Orange? Last year, Boeheim hinted that he might play some man-to-man defense in the regular season following an exhibition game in which he did just that.

While we won’t know until Syracuse faces significant competition, the full-court press worked for the Orange against SNHU.

“I thought we did a good job on our press,” Boeheim said. “It sped up the game a little bit and it forced some turnovers. We’ve worked on it. I thought we did some really good things there.”