Men's Basketball

Tyler Lydon’s rebounding improves while scoring stays stagnant

Jessica Sheldon | Staff Photographer

Tyler Lydon contributes to SU on defense and on the boards, but some fans wish he'd do more on offense as well.

A 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward who shoots better than 40 percent from behind the arc is a valuable element to nearly any team. Tyler Lydon’s ability to spread out defenses merely from being on the floor has helped Syracuse this season as defenses pay attention to his 3-point threat.

But Lydon’s shooting, his most noticeable skill, has taken a back seat to other ones with a maximum of four games remaining in his sophomore year.

“He knows we want him to shoot,” Orange head coach Jim Boeheim said. “He’s a great facilitator, he’s doing a great job, he’s playing great defense, he’s rebounding the ball. But he’s not, I don’t think he’s ready to be a big scorer.”

In SU’s last five games, Lydon’s taken more than 10 shots just once despite having the highest field-goal percentage among Syracuse starters. He’s also reeled in at least nine rebounds in each of those games. The National Invitation Tournament provides a last chance for Lydon to display his full arsenal at once. The No. 1 seed Orange (19-14, 10-8 Atlantic Coast) next faces No. 5 seed Mississippi (21-13, 10-8 Southeastern) in the Round of 16 on Saturday at 11 a.m. in the Carrier Dome.

After a solid freshman season coming off the bench, Lydon’s offensive numbers haven’t increased significantly outside of playing six more minutes per game, up to 36 this year. And with a possible early departure for the NBA Draft looming, Lydon hasn’t found the consistency expected when he was named to national preseason watch lists for player of the year awards.

“You can’t tell a player to shoot,” Boeheim said. “He’s got to see it when it’s there … I don’t think that’s his mentality. I think that’s something he has to develop. Nobody’s ever told him not to shoot.”

Lydon said he’s been hesitant “maybe a little bit” with his shot. He wants to improve his ball-handling and shooting. He takes a shot on 18.2 percent of the possessions he’s on the court for, which ranks fifth on the Orange, according to Kenpom.com. Meanwhile, his 40.3 3-point field-goal percentage ranks 16th in the ACC.

The sophomore showed his potential during the middle chunk of the season when he scored in double figures 14 times in 15 games, averaging 16.6 points, and shot 48.3 percent from 3. But the inconsistency has reappeared over the past month and a half.

“He’s deferring. He’s passing up some shots,” Boeheim said. “He’s passing up some opportunities where I think he could go. Those things take time. He’s just not doing it yet I don’t think.”

What Lydon is doing is expanding other parts of his game. He’s Syracuse’s leading rebounder with 8.5 per game, an uptick from his 6.3 last season.

Earlier in the year, Lydon strictly rebounded balls that came toward him off a missed shot. He recognized the error in his game and realized he could be more influential. Now, Lydon’s using his athleticism and lengthy frame to corral balls that aren’t as close to his area on the floor. That’s what’s led to double-digit rebounds in five of SU’s last six games.

“If you can do that,” Lydon said of rebounding outside his area, “I think it makes you a great rebounder.”

There’s no question Lydon’s contributions have given the Orange a lift only he can provide. But it’s what he isn’t doing — shooting consistently and scoring effectively — that has frustrated SU fans hoping for a breakout year. It’s what led one fan to blurt out “NBA bound!” when he missed a free throw on Wednesday against North Carolina-Greensboro.

While Syracuse missed out on the tournament it wanted to be in, the tournament it’s currently in gives Lydon a chance to piece his entire skillset together.

“I think I can do a lot to impact the game,” Lydon said, “whether it’s defensively, rebounding, offense, whatever. I think I can just do a lot.”

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