The shoe still fits for Syracuse basketball and big-play freshman Tyler Lydon

first_img Published on March 29, 2016 at 12:05 am Contact Matt: [email protected] | @matt_schneidman CHICAGO – Even if the shoe fit, there was no time to put it on. Tyler Lydon’s left sneaker squirted off his foot and he couldn’t look back at it before Michael Gbinije swung a pass to his right and into the wide-open freshman’s hands.Isaiah Wilkins left the double team on Gbinije and darted to his left before soaring through the air. Lydon sold Wilkins on a pump fake before taking a dribble to his left and sinking a 3 with his white and orange sock still sliding across the floor. Gbinije threw Lydon’s shoe out of bounds against the outside of the scorer’s table and Lydon backpedaled the other way, pointing to his shoeless foot and barking at a referee for some sort of reprieve so he didn’t have to guard Anthony Gill with his sneaker three-quarters of the way down the other end of the court.“You can’t stop playing in that situation so I was like, ‘Why not?’” Lydon said. “I think that was like the first 3 I’d made since the first game.”It was a relatively insignificant bucket that cut Syracuse’s deficit to nine with 2:24 remaining in the first half against Virginia, but it was just about the last possible thing Lydon hadn’t done yet this season. He’s proved to be efficient from deep. He’s turned a hesitancy from the field into an ability to pump fake and finish at the rim. He’s hung with the big boys and blossomed into a reliable rebounder, often opposing centers that have far more bulk than the lanky freshman.On Sunday, his 11 points and six rebounds were heavily masked by a 21-point second half from fellow freshman Malachi Richardson. Lydon has rarely played the star. That’s left Gbinije, sometimes Richardson and even Trevor Cooney and Tyler Roberson on occasion. But in No. 10 seed Syracuse’s (23-13, 9-9 Atlantic Coast) 68-62 upset of top-seeded Virginia (29-8, 13-5), the supporting role embodying efficiency and timely plays on both ends down the stretch fit seamlessly into the narrative of Lydon’s season that may still not have reached its peak.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“A lot of freshman normally … don’t continue to get better at the end of the year,” assistant coach Adrian Autry said. “Most of them come out in the beginning and then they kind of maintain, but he’s just been getting better and better the last six, seven or eight games.”If Lydon had maintained how he started this season, he’d be the star. A roaring and unexpected performance in the Battle 4 Atlantis set the bar high for the versatile freshman that was now popping up higher on scouting reports.Teams followed him out to the perimeter. They pounded the ball in his direction down low. Physically inferior to almost everyone he guarded, Lydon was on the receiving end of criticism from Jim Boeheim that he wasn’t physically ready after Isaiah Hicks and Brice Johnson tore through the Orange’s frontcourt in the Carrier Dome.Then there was the critique, from Boeheim, teammates and himself, of his hesitation from the field when he’d pass up wide-open shots for simple passes.Lydon couldn’t use his weight to manhandle centers, and he had to shed his stutter from the field. The versatility had faded midseason, was re-discovered down the stretch and had to find a way to carry over into a postseason that the Orange isn’t supposed to still be playing in.Those ways came in the form of stepping out to where he normally wouldn’t and blocking a Josh Perkins floater that saved Syracuse’s season in the Elite Eight. Or forcing Gill into a travel on a 2-on-1 with 8:17 left that allowed SU to slice its deficit to single digits on the next possession.“Tyler Lydon made a couple great plays in the back of (the press) to stop them in a 2-on-1 situation,” Boeheim said, “and we finally got our offense.”Then pulling a once-uncharacteristically quick trigger and hitting a 3-pointer from the wing against UVA to cut Syracuse’s deficit to three less than two minutes later. And finally hauling in a rebound with less than 10 seconds left over Gill and Malcolm Brogdon, an individual feat against two opponents normally reserved for Roberson, but one the freshman did to all but secure a Final Four spot after Roberson fouled out minutes prior.“He looks like a lightweight fighting heavyweight,” assistant coach Mike Hopkins said, “and at the end of the day, no one’s really been able to really hurt him down there.”After his block against Gonzaga, Lydon elevated and hit the ground with the ball in his hands before hitting two foul shots. Following his rebound against Virginia, Lydon elevated and hit the ground with the ball in his hands before hitting another two foul shots. Both plays that will barely show up in a box score, but ones that may be the difference between the Orange heading to Houston or staying home.And one final time before Syracuse left the court at the United Center, Lydon elevated before coming back down on two feet. No foul shots were needed. No game needed to be sealed. This time, it was up a ladder to cut down the net and then back down.His left sneaker was snug on his foot, just like the shoe that Syracuse still fits. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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