SYRACUSE, New York — Another season is at hand for Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, and year No. 39 on the bench at his alma mater promises to be a challenge.
The Orange are ranked No. 23 as they prepare to meet Kennesaw State on Friday night in the Carrier Dome in the first round of the 2K Sports Classic. Boeheim has to figure out a way to replace the offense generated last year by forwards C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant and point guard Tyler Ennis, the top three scorers on the team. They combined to average 40.7 points on a team that averaged 68, and all three have departed.
That's the biggest offensive void Boeheim has faced in his Hall of Fame career.
Newcomer Kaleb Joseph takes over for Ennis and already has sparkled, hitting 7 of 9 shots from the floor and making all but one of his six free throws for 19 points in the Orange's exhibition opener against Carleton. Joseph also had four rebounds, four assists and a steal in a game the Orange rallied from 15 points behind to win 76-68.
Syracuse also beat Adrian 84-35 on Monday, forcing 29 turnovers that led to 42 points for the Orange in the final exhibition tuneup. Freshman Chris McCullough finished with a double-double with a team-high 13 points and 16 rebounds, while center Rakeem Christmas had 12 points, five rebounds and five blocks.
"I think these games are important for the young players because they need that game experience," Boeheim said. "It will just take a while. Normally, your two exhibition games you're going to win by a lot. Carleton was an unusual team, so that was good, and that's why we scheduled them. It was good for us."
Boeheim said he will rely on Michael Gbinije to help fill the void on offense, even though the Duke transfer won't start.
"I've told Mike (Gbinije) from the beginning that he's just like a starter," Boeheim said. "I expect him to play like a starter, and I think he will. He'll get as many minutes, I'm sure, as the starters. I have a lot of confidence in him.
"We're not really deep, but Chris (McCullough) can play a couple positions, and Mike can play two or three positions, so I think that we've got enough flexibility there,"Boeheim said. "Both of those guys are capable of being starters and having big, productive nights."
Last season, Syracuse began with 31 straight wins — six in the preseason and a school-record 25 to open the regular season. That vaulted the Orange to No. 1 in the nation. Hope for a second straight trip to the Final Four ended with a thud, though, in the third round of the NCAA tournament when the Orange offense stalled against Dayton in a 55-53 loss, their sixth setback in nine games. The untimely swoon left them at 28-6.
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