Men's Basketball

Afterthoughts: After its first significant win of the season, Syracuse could stick with 5-man rotation

Jacob Greenfeld | Asst. Photo Editor

Tyus Battle, Andrew White, Tyler Roberson, John Gillon and Tyler Lydon each played at least 35 minutes in Syracuse's win over Miami on Wednesday night.

After on-and-off results from its deeper bench, Syracuse on Wednesday night kept its rotation the tightest it had through 15 games — and it worked.

The Orange has lost games in which it used nine players and only three scored in double figures. It also has won games in which eight players scored in double digits. On Wednesday, the first time SU head coach Jim Boeheim kept his rotation to five players, Syracuse (9-6, 1-1 Atlantic Coast) picked up its first significant victory of the season, a 70-55 triumph over Miami (11-3, 1-1) in the Carrier Dome.

“It was something a little different than we’ve been doing all season,” senior forward Tyler Roberson said, “but it’s just one game.”

Roberson played a season-high 35 minutes while starter Taurean Thompson only saw five. Frank Howard and Dajuan Coleman played a combined one minute and 40.9 seconds. Boeheim has flirted with different lineups all season, using his fifth different starting five against Miami, but this was the first time he hasn’t substituted freely.

Then again, it hasn’t been often that the five on the floor has excelled for as long of a stretch as John Gillon, Tyus Battle, Andrew White, Tyler Lydon and Roberson did in holding the Hurricanes to 55 points.

“That unit that was out there was in a groove, so we stuck with it,” said Lydon, who scored 20 points. “I think we can throw a number of different lineups in there and be confident with the five guys on the floor that can win a game.”

The reasoning was simple from Boeheim: Roberson is better at defense than Thompson. Syracuse needed defense. Roberson’s defense worked. So Roberson played 35 minutes while Thompson rode the bench.

It may have been atypical of what the Orange has done, especially with more reliable options at its disposal than last year. But those reliable options have turned out to be not so reliable, so the easy fix was to cancel some of them out.

The five Syracuse rolled with on Wednesday has been used only 27.3 percent of the time over the past five games, according to Kenpom.com. Against Miami, it was used for almost the entire game with all five players seeing over 35 minutes on the floor. And for now, until another opponent shreds the zone, Boeheim has no reason to change.

“If we win that way,” Boeheim said with a sarcastic smirk, “we’ll continue it, yeah.”

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