first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on November 28, 2018 at 10:28 am Contact Billy: | @Wheyen3 Before each of Syracuse’s first four games, Frank Howard shot with untied shoes before sitting out with an injured left ankle.Last Wednesday, Howard’s shoes were tied. Nov. 21, one hour and 15 minutes before Syracuse tipped off against Colgate, Howard was signing a few autographs with his gray and white sneakers’ laces already knotted up. The shoes being tied meant one thing: Syracuse had its senior point guard back.“Frank’s one of the leaders on this team,” SU junior Tyus Battle said. “Whole year last year, 40 minutes for both of us. It’s great to have him back out there.”Howard returned, started and played 19 minutes for Syracuse (3-2) in the Orange’s 77-56 win over Colgate last week. Afterward, he said he’s about “60 or 70 percent” of how he felt at his peak this offseason. Howard averaged the fourth-most minutes in the country last year, but for SU’s first four games, he played zero. His return helps the Orange all over the floor: running the point, moving Battle to his natural position and defending at the top of the zone.“He’s a great point guard, a great leader,” forward Oshae Brissett said. “He helps us on the court, telling us where to be. Something breaks down, he’s smart out there, and he knows what it takes on the offensive end to get a quick bucket if we need it. I’m just glad to have him back.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textLaura Angle | Digital Design EditorWhen Syracuse lost two games in 24 hours at Madison Square Garden, Howard watched and noticed the “ball sticking,” meaning SU didn’t move the ball well around the perimeter. When a player caught the ball, he’d dribble for a while or try to beat his man one-on-one. Against Oregon, Brissett traveled twice on the perimeter under limited pressure. Both times, he had a simple swing pass he could’ve made but jumbled his feet instead.Howard knew in his return he wanted to keep the ball moving. Of his five assists, an SU game-high for the season, four led to 3-pointers. Howard assisted on three-straight possessions to Elijah Hughes and Battle twice, sparking a 9-2 second-half run.“He made a couple really smart plays to start the second half,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said. “Got the ball back to Elijah and got it to Tyus. Got a couple 3s because of it.”With Howard back on the Syracuse lineup, Boeheim nixed Battle’s usage at point guard that had been a necessity during the Orange’s first four games. Though Battle didn’t play point guard against Colgate, through five games he’s accounted for 33 percent of SU’s point guard minutes, per That changed how Battle played, taking him out of spots he thrived in last year and leading to games where he shot 3-for-10 and 4-for-10 from the floor.But with Howard back, Battle can play off the ball. Multiple times against Colgate, Howard swung the ball to Battle on a wing, and the 6-foot-6 guard stepped once before blowing by a defender and into the lane.When running the point, Battle didn’t have frequent opportunities to catch and utilize his explosive first step. Howard pushes Battle to his natural position and lets him do just that; SU’s leading scorer from a year ago scored 16 in the second half to help SU pull away from the Raiders.“I knew he would have a game tonight,” Howard said last Wednesday. “I told him, ‘I’m gonna make sure you have a game.’ Try to put him in the best spots and make calls where he’s best at.”Syracuse’s defense missed Howard, too. On two separate occasions earlier in the season, when Brissett was asked about Howard’s absence, he was quick to remind reporters that Howard led the Orange in steals last season (1.88 per game). With no Howard, a shorter, 6-foot-3 Jalen Carey or 6-foot-5 freshman Buddy Boeheim would play the top of the zone with Battle. Buddy has mentioned time and again that he wants to improve his defense, and he hasn’t displayed the lateral quickness of Howard.After allowing teams to average 63.8 points per game a season ago, the Orange had allowed 70 points in three-straight games (and 80 points in two) before Howard’s return. Colgate scored 32 points in the first half, knocking down eight 3s. But the Orange slowed the Raiders in the second half, limiting them to 56 for the game.Howard recorded three steals in his return, including one in the first half, where he took the ball away, pushed up the floor to the left side and kicked it across to Battle on the right wing for a 3.On Nov. 6, Brissett said of Howard’s return on defense: “Once we get him back out there, it’s gonna be even worse for other teams.”When Syracuse plays at No. 16 Ohio State (6-0) on Wednesday, Howard will head out for warm-ups with his shoes tied, again. After SU’s worst start to a season since 1987, Howard’s return was exactly what the Orange needed.“He was really playing the best I’ve seen him play this summer,” Boeheim said. “We’ll just try to get him back there.” Commentslast_img

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