Facebook Twitter Google+ Syracuse (5-1) pulled away from Holy Cross (3-1) for a 72-48 win in the Carrier Dome on Friday night, and here are three takeaways from the game.1. May not matterSyracuse’s shooters couldn’t have thrown a basketball into Onondaga Lake in the game, but it surprisingly didn’t hinder the Orange’s production in the post.SU finished 0-for-14 from 3, but the Crusaders still couldn’t stop Rakeem Christmas from collecting a career-high 25 points and Chris McCullough getting 14, the sixth time the freshman forward has scored in double figures in as many games this season.It’s worth nothing that Holy Cross doesn’t have the kind of frontcourt that most of the Orange’s opponents will sport this season, but Friday was another day of survival for SU’s scoring bigs despite another dismal outside-shooting display.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text2. Count on itEven though Christmas’ output led the way, McCullough’s steady night was another reason to believe that the first-year forward is a reliable secondary option for an offense that badly needs one.McCullough was strong on the boards and finished with a team-high 13 rebounds, but was most impressive in the mid-range game. That’s where his face-up jump shot froze Crusaders defenders that could watch as make after make left his high release and found the bottom of the net.3. ValidatedAfter a subpar performance against Loyola on Tuesday, SU head coach Jim Boeheim came down on junior forward Michael Gbinije. And if those comments weren’t warranted before, Gbinije was clumsy running the offense whenever point guard Kaleb Joseph was out of the game or off the ball.Gbinije gave away the ball twice in the second half and finished with two turnovers in the game. He also picked up a foul on back-to-back possessions with the Crusaders threatening to climb back into the game in the second half.Boeheim is giving Gbinije the chance to play out of his early-season funk, and he didn’t seize the chance against Holy Cross. Comments Published on November 28, 2014 at 9:08 pm
Another year older, another year wiser. That is the supposed mantra propelling the USC baseball team into the 2014 season, one in which they hope to fare better than the disappointing 20-36 overall record they posted last year with a .500 winning percentage in the Pac-12 conference.Power surge · Sophomore Vahn Bozoian is set to start in right field this season after appearing in 33 games last year. Bozoian smashed two home runs and drove in 11 RBIs for the Trojans in 2013, but only hit for a .224 average. – Joseph Chen | Daily TrojanThis year, USC head coach Dan Hubbs is prepared to make the necessary changes to turn the team around.Hubbs made his debut during the 2013 season after former head coach Frank Cruz was fired for violating NCAA regulations regarding the amount of time players can spend participating in activities under the supervision of the coaching staff.Much of the inaugural season for Hubbs involved experimenting with and searching for a winning formula. The lineup, rotation and bullpen were subject to change as player performances fluctuated and freshmen were inserted into tough spots. This season will be different, Hubbs claims.“You’ll see a more stable lineup this year as opposed to last year where guys were flying in and out of the lineup,” he said. “We’ll see more stable roles on the staff whereas every time we looked down at the bullpen [last season] we were figuring out who was going to be able to step in and do something.”Hubbs is taking his knowledge from last year and applying it to this year’s strategies. Some of his pitchers progressed last season while the development of others stagnated. Hubbs will prioritize the seven to 10 pitchers on the mound who have demonstrated improvement; five or six will barely pitch.Similarly, Hubbs said that 13 or 14 position players will get the majority of at-bats. The other players who don’t get starting time will have to work hard to earn pinch running or defensive replacement roles from their teammates who have already won jobs on the field.Though Hubbs vows to cement his players into certain roles, many positions remain open and will be finalized in the first few weeks as he figures out how to fill holes left by last year’s departures.The Trojans lost outfielder Greg Zebrack and infielders Adam Landecker and James Roberts to graduation, but the team added nine true freshmen. A young team last year remains a young team this year, with 24 underclassmen compared to 11 upperclassmen.“We’re young in age, but we have more experience now,” USC head coach Dan Hubbs said. “Last year we were young in age, with zero experience all across the board.”The majority of the Trojan team is in the sophomore class. Hubbs said those 13 players went through growing pains last year, but that he expects them to have outgrown their inconsistencies.Some players won’t have the luxury of enough time to make that leap. A few freshmen have landed spots in the lineup including Frankie Rios, who will play shortstop, and Jeremy Martinez, who will be in the lineup either behind the plate or as designated hitter.A couple of returning players have locked in their roles. Seniors Dante Flores and Kevin Swick will man the infield at second and third, respectively. Last year’s freshmen standouts in Timmy Robinson and Vahn Bozoian will likely return to center and right field, respectively.There’s a lot of competition everywhere else. Sophomore infielder Blake Lacey will start the season out with a back injury, leaving the Trojans thin in the middle of the diamond. The jobs at first and left field remain open.Though the competition is stiff, the players aren’t feeling the pressure to outperform each other.“There doesn’t seem to be a worry of, ‘Hey, this guy is competing for my spot,’” Hubbs said. “It’s just, ‘Hey, we want to be the best team we can be.’ So how are we going to help each other out to get there?”One clear way to accomplish this goal will be boosting offensive performance.Scoring runs was one of the primary difficulties for an offense that tied for fifth in team batting average, but ranked tenth in RBIs and runs scored, and tied for last in wins in conference rankings last season. The problem wasn’t hitting; it was scoring.Hubbs said that last year’s assistant coach Matt Curtis, who has since assumed offensive coach duties, and assistant coach Vinny Lopez have helped with plate approach, recognizing strengths and instituting plans for each player.Hubbs also attributed some of the team’s offensive woes to young players trying to achieve too much at the plate in high-pressure situations. He is confident that the team has developed new strategies that prepare them to drive in runs in a variety of ways, instead of last year’s tried tactic: waiting for the elusive big hit.“I think our short game is better in terms of our bunting and our ability to manufacture runs this year,” Hubbs said. “I think we’re much more prepared to score those runs that we had out there last year.”The Trojans will have a chance to prove their head coach right when they open the season against the Northwestern Wildcats at Dedeaux Field on Friday. It’s a long trip for Northwestern, but not one that’s unprecedented.“I don’t think it’s unusual for a cold weather school to want to come to a warm weather climate,” Hubbs said. “They obviously haven’t been outdoors much with the weather back in the Midwest but I think they’re going to be a good opponent.”Though Hubbs recognizes the talent that the team in purple possesses, he recites a familiar phrase: the team plays against itself, not against its opponents.“We’re looking to sustain a level of play and an expectation of play throughout the season that becomes a part of our identity,” Hubbs said. “Rather than, ‘Hey USC played really well today’ … I don’t think that should be a surprise to anybody when last year I felt it really was.”Junior Wyatt Strahan will start Opening Day, followed by senior Bob Wheatley on Saturday. Hubbs said he hadn’t decided Sunday’s pitcher because he’s still toying with who he wants as closer.The first game of the season starts at 6 p.m. this Friday.