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Wednesday, Nov 02, 2016 at 12:01 am

Syracuse Plays Man-To-Man Defense in 83-65 Exhibition Win over IUP

By Chris Thomsen

SYRACUSE, NY – After winning the opening tip-off of the 2016-17 campaign, Syracuse center DaJuan Coleman committed an offensive foul while creating space in the paint. The Orange retreated to its bucket while the Carrier Dome crowd continued to stand and clap.

The cheering may have muffled the gasps and confused expressions that resulted on Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s first offensive possession.

No, the Crimson Hawks didn’t make a spectacular play. Nobody fell to the floor in pain. At any other college, things would be pretty normal.

But Syracuse University isn’t your usual school. And Jim Boeheim is definitely not your average coach.

The 71-year-old had Syracuse playing man-to-man defense to begin its first exhibition matchup of the season, which would end in an 83-65 victory for the Orange. It was the first time that SU had played anything other than the 2-3 zone in years, even in non-competitive games.

“It was a little different,” forward Tyler Lydon said. “We’ve been working on it in practice since the beginning of the year. We knew we were going to be using it at some point.”

Don’t credit Boeheim’s radical defensive strategy for the win. If anything, it hurt SU. IUP took advantage of a system that Orange players were not accustomed with to gain an early 14-3 lead with 15:50 left in the first half.

“It was a bad team to play man-to-man against because they got DaJuan [Coleman] outside for three threes,” Boeheim said. “Just not a good situation for us to play man.”

And Syracuse wasn’t helping itself on offense. The Orange converted only one field goal in the first five minutes.

Blame the Carrier Dome’s wacky depth perception. Blame the offseason rust. Blame the fact that it’s an exhibition game, so Syracuse wasn’t taking it seriously.

No matter the cause, Boeheim did something unusual again: with 15:28 left in the first half, he replaced his entire starting lineup with five fresh players. In years past, Boeheim would be unable to do so due to a lack of depth on his bench.

But not this year. Not in 2016.

The second unit of Matthew Moyer, John Gillon, Paschal Chukwu, Taurean Thompson and Tyus Battle would right the Orange ship, bringing the game within single digits with 10:19 left in the first half. The Orange would eventually take a 30-29 lead five minutes before halftime. And Syracuse wouldn’t look back.

As the game progressed, so did the Orange. Syracuse’s bench totaled 32 points on Tuesday, a stronger outing than other SU teams were ever capable of reaching. Freshman Tyus Battle scored 16 points in his Carrier Dome debut. And Tyler Lydon finished with a double-double, but Boeheim said it would be “as bad as he’ll play, probably.”

But the question remains: will we see man-to-man defense again when the Orange hosts LeMoyne next Tuesday for its second and final exhibition game? Or perhaps during the regular season?

“We were in a man-to-man because we wanted to get some practice,” Boeheim said. The reason we haven’t the last two or three years is that we really haven’t had the chance to be able to do that. It’s something we work on every day and we could theoretically use it in some situations. We’ll see what happens.”