NEW YORK — Oregon fans in Madison Square Garden for the last two nights were witness to the full Bol Bol experience.
A night after he finished with 14 points, nine boards and five blocks in an uneven performance that was not as impressive as the highlight videos floating around twitter made it seem, Oregon’s top five prospect and a potential top five pick in the 2019 NBA Draft was as active and engaged as he could be for 40 minutes, finishing with 26 points, nine boards and four blocks as No. 13 Oregon beat No. 15 Syracuse, 80-65, to get out of the 2K Classic with a win.
“At times we played hard but we didn’t really compete,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said of his team’s performance in a loss to Iowa on Thursday night. “There’s a difference.”
“We were really disappointed in them,” he added, “and our coaching staff expressed that. The way they turned that around, a young team, I was really pleased with them. Freshmen you gotta be patient with. I was more disappointed with the older guys than the younger guys. The freshmen, it was their first time on the road, and it looked like it. We’ll keep pushing them and moving them along and see how well they respond.
“I didn’t know what to expect today, and I’m really pleased with how they responded.”
Bol was the star of the show.
A 7-foot-2 center, Bol has a skill set that is unique in the world of basketball, regardless of level. He has all the size and length you can ask for, but he’s mobile on the perimeter and skilled enough to be able to handle the ball. He has range out to the three-point line, but as he showed on Friday night, he can be an impact presence in the high-post as well. He made three or four little floaters from about eight feet, and while he was only credited with one assists, he made some nice passes to Kenny Wooten on the baseline.
And then, of course, there is the impact that he can have defensively. He is a world-class rim protector, but his mobility and athleticism allows him to have an impact on the perimeter as well. He can run people off the three-point line by taking two steps out of the paint.
“We have to take advantage of his uniqueness,” Altman said, adding that the key centers around Bol’s ability to handle the physicality of the college level as well as battling through the fatigue that comes with playing 30-plus minutes at this level.
It helped that Syracuse, as big as they are, just doesn’t have the strength inside to create problems for Bol. That’s the way to get him off his game — get up under him, push him around — and, as Jim Boeheim put it with his trademark, sarcastic grin, “it doesn’t appear that we can do that right now.”
Boeheim was not happy after this loss.
He knows his team is struggling offensively, and he knows that it puts a level of stress and pressure on his defense that they are not ready to handle.
Specifically, he called out Oshae Brissett and Tyus Battle. Brissett was 2-for-12 from the floor and 1-for-9 from three on Friday. Battle finished just 4-for-10 from the floor and missed all four of his threes. As a team, Syracuse was 5-for-28 from beyond the arc after entering the night shooting just 21.8 percent from three.
“I’d say he’s missing shots,” Boeheim said of Brissett’s struggles. “Hes been shooting them good in practice. He’s a good shooter. He’s just not there. He’s not playing at the level we need him to play.
“We need him and Tyus to play at a high level, and they’re not.”