The next step in Syracuse freshman center Taurean Thompson’s development: Avoid foul trouble

first_img Published on February 8, 2017 at 9:29 pm Contact Paul: [email protected] | @pschweds Facebook Twitter Google+ Taurean Thompson turned toward the Syracuse sideline to listen to Jim Boeheim. The Orange’s 41-year head coach didn’t have anything profound to say. Instead, Boeheim delivered a simple message that still rings true over a month later.“Don’t foul,” Boeheim told Thompson.Thompson had just put his hands on Miami’s Dewan Huell, who dunked just two and a half minutes into the Jan. 4 contest. It was Thompson’s first foul of the game before being pulled when he committed his second two minutes later.Thompson has proven his offensive ability 24 games into the season. He’s provided a pleasant surprise for a Syracuse (16-9, 8-4 Atlantic Coast) team that’s desperately needed one at times. And as his freshman season progresses, so does his game. The next step to take is staying out of foul trouble.Among those who have played a minimum of 40 percent of minutes in conference play, Thompson ranks forth in the ACC in fouls committed per 40 minutes (5.63), according to Kenpom.com. The Orange is 3-5 when Thompson commits four or more fouls. All three of those wins have come in the past two weeks.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Every single day, that’s my main focus right now,” Thompson said of practicing to avoid fouling.Colin Davy | Asst. Photo EditorAt the start of the season, even a 12-point burst from Thompson in just 13 minutes against Monmouth on Nov. 18 didn’t impress Boeheim. He worried more about Thompson’s defensive miscues. The forward-turned-center has spent the year working on adjusting to the 2-3 zone, a scheme that he never played in high school.Thompson has flashed moments where he looks comfortable as the zone’s anchor. He blocked two shots against both North Carolina State and Wake Forest and three against Virginia Tech. While his defensive recoveries have improved, he’ll need more minutes to continue making a difference. And that’s impossible if he gets into foul trouble.“A lot of his fouls come from him trying to make up for someone else’s mistake, which is big,” forward Tyler Lydon said. “It just comes down to being active, staying aggressive and staying focused.”The plays typically come down to positioning and discipline. If Thompson can get to the right spots and trust himself to defend effectively, he’s not forced to foul.After Syracuse beat Florida State on Jan. 28, Boeheim said Thompson picked up two fouls in the first four minutes because he let the ball get inside. Thompson wouldn’t have been in a precarious foul situation if he was better at preventing the ball from getting down low. That’s an area Boeheim said Thompson needs to improve.“Everybody knows I can shoot, I can score,” Thompson said, “but establishing myself defensively, that’s something I feel I’m not doing a good job.”Tuesday night’s game against Clemson mimicked Thompson’s season. He appeared virtually out of nowhere and scored 12 of the Orange’s first 15 points after halftime. But foul trouble also limited him. Boeheim yanked him in the first half, waving his arm at Thompson to come off the court after a referee whistled him less than three minutes into the game. The freshman finished the game with four fouls in just 17 minutes.Thompson’s contributions for the Orange have been important this season. He’s by far SU’s best inside scoring threat but struggles to stay on the court long enough to showcase that.“He can score against anybody,” Boeheim said. “Big weapon on offense. Hurts us on defense, but that’s the way it is sometimes. Some guys help you get here and hurt you there.” Commentslast_img

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