Watkins makes impact after 4 week absence
Syracuse sophomore Darryl Watkins took an important step in his recovery from a torn ligament in his right thumb on Monday night against Connecticut, playing 23 minutes and recording four rebounds with four points.
Watkins’ double-digit minute effort in Syracuse’s 74-66 loss against the Huskies was the most minutes he’s played since a Dec. 22 game against Rice. In the four games prior to his thumb injury, Watkins averaged nearly 24 minutes a game with seven points, seven rebounds and two-and-a-half blocks. But he’s struggled since his return to the lineup against Rutgers on Jan. 24.
‘Mookie did some positive things,’ Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said after the game. ‘Those are all things that are going to help us toward the end of the year.’
While Watkins added a nice presence on the defensive boards for Syracuse, he struggled with other things. Boeheim said Watkins needs to improve his defense as Connecticut was able to take advantage of him with entry passes into the lane because he was out of position. Watkins also picked up his fourth foul with 10:16 remaining and had to play the remainder of the game in foul trouble.
‘That’s the one thing that’s hurt Mookie is the inexperience of not playing these four weeks,’ Boeheim said.
Watkins said he is progressing nicely and the increase in minutes is going to help his recovery.
‘I’m coming along,’ Watkins said. ‘Things opened for me to go in and get some rebounds.’
A sign that center Craig Forth’s stock has fallen came in the second half when Hakim Warrick, Terrence Roberts and Watkins each had four fouls.
Forth sat on the bench with zero fouls and could have given the Orange a relief from foul trouble. Boeheim refused to insert Forth, who has started 126 straight games, the longest streak for one player in the country.
Forth played just nine minutes against the Huskies, his third lowest minute total of the year. He failed to score while picking up two rebounds. Forth didn’t score in 20 minutes against Notre Dame and it’s obvious Boeheim is increasingly frustrated with Forth’s lack of production. In his last five games, Forth is averaging just two points.
‘(Craig’s) playing too many minutes and nothing’s happening,’ Boeheim said. ‘We’ve got to get some production out of that position before the end of the year is here.’
Syracuse senior Hakim Warrick and junior Gerry McNamara were named as mid-season candidates for the Naismith Trophy on Tuesday.
The award is given annually to the top male and female college basketball player in the country.
McNamara is averaging 16 points and nearly five assists while Warrick leads Syracuse in scoring and rebounding with 20.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
Syracuse sophomore Demetris Nichols’ plight from starter at the beginning of the year to bench player by midseason hit its lowest point Monday night. Nichols didn’t play at all and has averaged just five minutes per game in Syracuse’s last nine contests.
In those games, Nichols has failed to score a point three times (including two of the last three) and his highest scoring game came against West Virginia when he totaled four. Nichols has just two 3s in that stretch. The few occasions Nichols saw playing time, Boeheim took him out after a quick mistake.
Boeheim remains three wins shy of the elusive 700-win club. If Syracuse wins its next three games, Boeheim’s 700th win would come at Boston College on Feb. 19. … Syracuse shot 64 percent from the free-throw line against UConn, which coincidentally is its season average. The Orange ranks second-to-last in the Big East in that category. St. John’s is last at 62 percent. … Syracuse made just one 3 against the Huskies Monday, its lowest total of the year.
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