Jim Boeheim is worried Syracuse won’t be able to handle playing tougher opponents. He will have to wait at least another week to find out.
The 17th-ranked Orange play their first road game of the season, though they will stay in the state of New York, when they take on Canisius at HSBC Arena on Saturday.
Syracuse (5-0) is coming off a 79-67 win over Charlotte on Wednesday. Far from one of their best games, the Orange committed 17 turnovers and fell behind by seven early on.
“The level of play right now is not close to what it would have to be playing in the (Big East) conference or a top team,” Boeheim said. “We’re just not tough-minded. We’re making way too many turnovers, turnovers you can’t make and be a good team.”
Boeheim isn’t likely to see his squad get much of a challenge from Canisius (1-2), a team it has beaten 17 straight times, or on Monday against Patriot League member Holy Cross.
However, the Orange may start to find out just how good they are in their two ensuing games, facing No. 24 Wichita State next Saturday and Big 12 foe Oklahoma State on Dec. 5.
One of the bright spots for Syracuse on Wednesday was the play of Demetris Nichols. He scored a season-high 21 points, including eight straight during a key 13-4 run when the game was still close in the second half.
Nichols in one of three seniors who started all 35 games last season. He is averaging 15.0 points, nearly two more than his average as a junior.
Teammate Paul Harris said Nichols is going to have to step up if Syracuse is to be competitive this season without former star point guard Gerry McNamara.
“(Nichols is) the best player on the team and he’s got to act like it,” said Harris, who scored a season-high 17 points Wednesday. “He’s got to take over when it’s time out there. He’s got to shoot the ball.”
This will be somewhat of a homecoming for Harris, who played in nearby Niagara Falls.
“I’ve got so many calls from people who say they’re going to be there,” he said. “It’s just going to be a great privilege to see my mom. I’m going to love it, whether I play good or bad.”
The highly regarded freshman is averaging 12.0 points and 8.2 rebounds.
“He’s coming along,” Nichols said of Harris. “He’s getting his confidence up there. There’s a lot of hype about him and he’s got to prepare himself for that.”
Canisius relies on a pair of seniors for the bulk of its offense, with Corey Herring and Darnell Wilson leading the team with 15.3 and 12.3 points per game, respectively.
Herring scored 22 points and Wilson added 14 on Wednesday as the Golden Griffins notched their first win of the season, beating Colgate 78-73 in overtime.
“We made some mistakes tonight, but we found a way to fight through it,” said coach Tom Parrotta, who received his first career victory. “That’s what wins games.”
Canisius hasn’t beaten Syracuse since an 80-76 victory on Feb. 15, 1975.