The Syracuse Orange (2-0, 0-0) enters its third game of the season at home against the Texas Southern Tigers (0-3, 0-0) in a prime time matchup under the lights of the Carrier Dome.
Arguably the most impressive aspect of the Orange season thus far has been its defense. Through two games, SU has allowed just 53.5 points per game, good for t-16 in all of Division I college basketball. Syracuse has been able to make opponents shots difficult both in the paint and behind the arc, with 'Cuse ranking in the top 40 in both blocks and three-point field goal defense in the nation.
Paschal Chukwu has commanded the interior defense for the Orange, as he is tied for the team lead in rebounds, and has accounted for over 40 percent of his team's blocks through two games against Cornell and Iona. On the outside of Coach Jim Boeheim's zone, Tyus Battle and Frank Howard have led the defensive presence. The sophomore and junior guards have combined for five steals.
A strong defensive team may be a problem for Texas Southern, who has struggled offensively through their three game losing skid to begin the season. The Tigers have only shot 42 percent from the field through their first two games, not even in the top 200 in Division I. In their third matchup of the year on Thursday against Ohio State, the Tigers were held to 41.5 percent in an eighteen point loss to the Buckeyes. Holding on to the ball has also been a problem for Texas Southern, as the team had a turnover margin (-3) going into their Ohio State game ranked t-269 in Division I. This margin only worsened with 16 more turnovers Thursday.
If Texas Southern's offensive struggles continue, its negative impact for the Tigers could be compounded by the Orange, who have been able to capitalize offensively from their defense. SU has had a combined 33 points off turnovers through their two games, which is over 20 percent of the team's season point total.
Much of the offensive game for the Orange early in the season has come from their most experienced player, sophomore guard Tyus Battle. Through two games, Battle leads the Orange in points per game with 23.0 on 55 percent shooting from the field. These averages include his breakout performance on Tuesday against Iona, where he put up a career-high 28 points on 11-19 shooting.
Tyus Battle and the other Syracuse guards will likely have to deal with Texas Southern's skilled guard, sophomore Demontrae Jefferson. Standing just five feet seven inches tall, Jefferson was recently named SWAC player of the week. This was awarded to him after he played every minute of the Tigers first two games, scoring at least 20 points in each. Jefferson has seven assists and seven three pointers to go along with his team leading scoring average. Jefferson did not play in Thursday's game versus Ohio State.
Syracuse beat Texas Southern back in 2015 by a score of 80-67 in the Carrier Dome. However, Frank Howard is the only player currently on the Orange roster to have played in that matchup.
After Syracuse's matchup Saturday against Texas Southern, it will be a quick turnaround for the Orange as they will then take on Oakland on Monday in the Carrier Dome.