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Syracuse depth destroys Manhattan

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SYRACUSE — At some point during the nearly six-month-long college basketball season, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim will probably decide on a definite player rotation.

But for now, the veteran Orange coach can simply look down his bench, pick out any number of talented reserves, and put a highly competitive five on the floor at any given time.

SU’s depth and versatility came through again Monday night as the No. 5 Orange blasted Manhattan 92-56 in the first round of the NIT Season Tip-Off at the Carrier Dome.

Five players finished in double figures, led by sophomore back-up guard Dion Waiters with 17 points, as SU advanced to a second-round game at 7 tonight against state foe Albany.

Albany was a 77-68 winner over Brown in Monday’s first game.

Senior forward Kris Joseph and junior reserve James Southerland added 15 points apiece, junior guard Brandon Triche netted 12 and sophomore center Fab Melo had 11 and nine rebounds as SU forged a 52-26 halftime lead.

On a night when its starting point guard, senior Scoop Jardine, took only three shots and went scoreless, SU still had more than enough to beat the Jaspers going away.

Boeheim said he hardly ever goes into a game with a set rotation in mind. But this season, that has been even more of an afterthought.

“You usually figure it out as the game goes on, the right combinations and make-up of your team by the way guys are playing,” Boeheim said. “There is no magic formula. If someone is playing good, he will probably see more time. But tomorrow could be totally different than tonight, and that’s good, too.”

Said Joseph: “Everyone on this team knows that if you have a poor game, there is someone else that will pick you up. Our bench guys work just as hard as anybody in practice, and they deserve to see a lot of time. They push the starters so hard it can’t help but make us better.”

Southerland, who is slowly developing into one of Boeheim’s most valuable players, also contributed six rebounds and four assists in a productive 19 minutes.

“James was good on Saturday, but he was great tonight,” Boeheim said. “He’s getting in the right places on offense and defense and is just playing with a lot more confidence.”

Southerland said the second five (he, Waiters, C. F. Fair, Baye Keita, Michael Carter-Williams) “takes a lot of pride in pushing the starters (in practice). In my mind, I think we could be a top 25 team. Every day is a war, and that kind of competition is really paying off.”

That kind of depth will also be a huge factor at the end of the season when the starters have usually logged too many minutes. Monday, nobody played more than 25 minutes, and nine guys played as many as 15 minutes.

“Our balance will keep us a lot fresher and ready to play in February and March,” Triche said. “And just think how much better some of our young guys are going to be in a few months. It’s kind of scary.”

SU is so deep that one of its prized recruits, freshman shooting guard Trevor Cooney, will be reshirted. Boeheim made the announcement after Cooney was held out of the first two games of the season.

“We believe Trevor is ready to play now,” Boeheim said. “But with four other guards ahead of him, he wasn’t going to see any significant time. He’s going to be a really good player, and will get better because he’s facing stiff competition each day in practice. But if your fifth guard makes a difference, you’re usually losing.”

Cooney said he was fine with the move. “It doesn’t mean I’ll stop working and proving what I can do,” he said. “Coach was up front with me, and I know he has a lot of faith in me in the future.”

Kidani Brutus led Manhattan (1-1) with 15 points.

This game was a lot more one-sided than the last time the two teams met. On Nov. 30, 2005, Manhattan came to the Dome and nearly upset the Orange, losing 87-82 in overtime.

Albany 77, Brown 68

Junior guard Gerardo Suero from the Dominican Republic scored 29 points, hitting 9 of 12 from the field, as the Great Danes opened a 12-point halftime lead and downed the Bears in the first game.

Suero also was 9-for-11 at the foul line for Albany, which opened its season with an 89-56 loss at Pittsburgh last Friday.

Albany coach Will Brown said his club can’t compare in talent or size with the Orange. “I truly believe they are a legitimate Final Four team, and that 1-10 they may be the most talented team in the country.”

As for facing SU’s vaunted 2-3 zone, Brown told his kids it’s a different animal from any zone they’ve ever seen.

“They are so long, and so deep, they just send their guards, let their big guys get the ball and transition from defense to offense in the blink of an eye,” Brown said.

Matt Sullivan scored 26 points for Brown (1-1).

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