SYRACUSE For players like Syracuse University freshman guard Ron Patterson, games like Saturday nights nonconference contest against visiting Binghamton provide a unique opportunity.
In what looked more like a glorified scrimmage, the No. 4 Oranges 93-65 win over the Bearcats at the Carrier Dome gave Patterson and two fellow rookies ample chances to show coach Jim Boeheim that they deserve playing time when the Atlantic Coast Conference season begins in early January.
Outside of freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, who has started every game for the now 9-0 Orange, Patterson, Tyler Roberson and B.J. Johnson had not seen action since the Nov. 16 home game against Colgate.
They were simply viewers in a tighter-than-expected win over St. Francis, in the three highly competitive games at the Maui Invitational, and again on Tuesday when SU beat Indiana in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at the Dome.
So Saturday meant a lot, for their confidence and for their future.
You always want an opportunity show what you can do, said Patterson, who scored a career-high 10 points and grabbed four rebounds in a season-high 15 minutes. We all know what our roles are, and were just trying to improve each day in practice. Coach keeps telling us our time will come.
Boeheim said being able to play the freshmen in more than just a mop-up role is important for their psyche, as well as the team going forward.
You never know when were going to need them in a big game, Boeheim said. They have to stay ready when we call on them and not be afraid to go out there and do what they do best.
Boeheim said he encourages Patterson to look for his shot when he gets in the game because hes a good shooter. Ive seen him make everything in practice one day, and nothing the next. He just needs to become more consistent.
He went 4-for-12 Saturday, including 2-for-6 on 3-pointers.
Patterson said having sat out five straight games is just part of the process as a freshman. We all believe our time will come and that we can contribute. Opportunities like tonight just make us feel more comfortable when we do get the chance.
Roberson, an athletic 6-8 forward from Union, N.J., contributed six points and five rebounds in 14 minutes. Johnson, a 6-7 wing forward, missed all five of his shots over 14 minutes.
Those guys work really hard in practice, and I think they learn a lot just by watching during games, Boeheim said. But every time they step on the court, its a learning experience.
Senior C.J. Fair scored 19 points and sophomore Trevor Cooney continued his hot shooting, hitting five 3-pointers and finishing with 17 points for SU (13-36 on 3-pointers). The Orange should move up to No. 2 in the national polls this week after losses by No. 1 Michigan State and No. 3 Kentucky in the past few days.
Cooney said while it is nice to be recognized, its how the Orange are playing that really matters.
As long as we continue to improve each game and do the things that we need to do to win, Cooney said, everything else will take care of itself.
Because hes been in the freshmens shoes before, Cooney said he continually talks to them about being prepared and to never stop working.
I talked to Ron before the game about tonight being a golden chance for him to show coach he can make a contribution, Cooney said. I thought he gave us a lot energy.
Jordan Reed led Binghamton with 26 points.
SU fell behind 11-3 after four minutes before Boeheim went to the press and the Orange spurted away. SU scored 18 consecutive points, turning the Bearcats (2-7) over on six straight possessions, and rolled to a 53-30 halftime lead.
We need the freshmen in there in game situations, no matter what the score, Boeheim said. Thats the only way they will learn what it takes to play at this level.
Boeheim also received 14 points from sophomore Jerami Grant and a double-double from sophomore forward DaJuan Coleman, who scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Although Coleman has started each game, he averages just 14 minutes and often sees his time cut down by inefficient play. However, Boeheim sees signs of progress by the former Jamesville-DeWitt star.
Hes starting to finish better and were doing a better job of looking for him, Boeheim said. But like with most big men, it takes longer to reach their potential than with a small forward or a guard.
SU is now off until a game next Sunday at Madison Square Garden in New York City against former Big East Conference rival St. Johns.