Published on January 20, 2016 at 9:41 pm Contact Jesse: firstname.lastname@example.org | @dougherty_jesse Last season, Syracuse’s offense revolved around center Rakeem Christmas in the post and Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije on the perimeter. It was a familiar sight for Roberson to be open at the top of the key, defenses daring him to shoot but his instincts forcing him to hesitate. The recurring result: Jab step against a phantom defender, pump fake against a phantom defender, missed shot clanking off the rim.SU’s offense functions in a similar way this season, with a game plan rooted in 3-pointers and high pick-and-rolls. When Roberson is on the floor with Gbinije, Cooney, Malachi Richardson and stretch forward Tyler Lydon, he becomes the player that defenses sag off of. But instead of stuttering with the ball in his hands, Roberson has made quick decisions to shoot, attack the rim or kick out to shooters.According to Hoop-Math.com, Roberson has 30 unassisted field goals at the rim this season and 37.2 percent of his shot attempts have been mid-range jumpers. He had 25 unassisted makes at the rim all of last season, and shot 27.5 from midrange. Then consider his 15.8 offensive rebounding percentage, the 21st best in the country and second best in the ACC according to Kenpom.com, which combines effort with skill to form a dangerous offensive big.“I think once he started to understand that we want him to take (shots) in rhythm and we want him to take those shots, we had the confidence in him and I think he has the confidence in himself,” Cooney said. “… They really have to come up there and respect him and he can go by and make plays and find shooters or just dunk the ball really.”Three straight ACC wins have Syracuse back in the thick of the conference standings, but no team has beaten Virginia at John Paul Jones Arena this season. The key to doing so rests in the middle of the Cavaliers near-impenetrable defense, where Roberson will find himself on Sunday night.Whether he shuts down or shows up is anyone’s guess, but his season is surely trending toward the latter.“Well he’s got opportunities, he’s got to take them when they’re there and he does have opportunities,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said on Jan. 11. “He’s just got to figure out where they are.” Comments Related Stories Syracuse basketball roundtable: Rebounding, X-factors and the bubble watchTyler Roberson has historic rebounding night at Cameron Indoor StadiumTyler Lydon increases inside presence heading into matchup with UVASyracuse basketball opponent preview: What to know about No. 13 Virginia Of all of Tyler Roberson’s tangible gifts — a visceral nose for the basketball and ability to leap out of any gym, to name two — it’s the intangibles that turn the often temperamental forward into a serious problem for opposing teams.A will to go after every loose ball with equal tenacity led him to 20 rebounds (a Cameron Indoor Stadium record for a visiting player), 12 of which were offensive (tied for a Syracuse record), in the Orange’s win at No. 20 Duke on Monday. A developed confidence in his own mid-range jump shot turned into a 5-for-5 shooting performance in a loss to North Carolina on Jan. 9. He’s continued asserting himself into SU’s offense by averaging 13 shots in the last two games, compared to his 7.7 shots per game in previous contests.Roberson’s scored in double figures in each of the last five contests after not scoring 10-plus points in back-to-back games all season. He’s collected a double-double, with points and rebounds, in the last three. Next, the surging Orange (13-7, 3-4 Atlantic Coast) travels to face No. 13 Virginia (14-4, 3-3) and its airtight pack-line defense at 7 p.m. on Sunday, and Roberson could again make all the difference.The Cavaliers give up 61.2 points per game, making it the second best defense in the ACC and 10th best in the country by that measure, and their man-to-man defense is built to take just about everything away. But there are ways to crack it, and a good offensive rebounder, pick-and-roll option and mid-range threat is a good start.Enter Roberson, whose toughest opponent remains himself.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“It comes down to me just going after it every night. I know I can, and I think I’ve proven I can.” Roberson said after SU beat Boston College on Jan. 13. “… I just have to be aggressive going forward. I know if I have an opportunity to shoot or drive I should take it, and playing aggressively, that’s when good things happen.” Facebook Twitter Google+ James McCann | Contributing Photographer
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Senior forward Sydney Johnson handles the ball in a game against Colorado at McAlister Field in Los Angeles. Photo by Mohammad Alsubaie | Daily TrojanThe No. 5 women’s soccer team (13-1-1) returns home from a successful Washington weekend road trip ready to play host to a challenging No. 16 Cal (13-2-1) team on Thursday. Cal will represent the toughest test for the Trojans this season as the conclusion of the Pac-12 season arrives. The Golden Bears played Oregon on Sunday at home, downing the Ducks 3-0. Oregon was able to keep the score respectable for the entire first half, entering halftime tied 0-0. However, as the game went on, the Ducks defense started to fall apart. Three goals in 10 minutes from the Cal offense resigned Oregon to its fate, as Cal outshot the Ducks 14-8 (8-3 on target) this game.Cal is led in scoring by sophomore midfielder Abi Kim and junior forward Miranda Nild, who have 7 and 6 goals, respectively, this season. These two represent the key pieces of the Cal attack and will need to be marked at all times by the USC defense.The Golden Bears are a very dangerous team not only in attack — as demonstrated by the exploits by Kim and Nild — but also in defense, only conceding 6 goals all season. In comparison, the Trojans have conceded 9 goals this season. Cal has also been high-scoring this season, netting 1.56 goals per game compared to its opponent’s 0.38 goals per game. The Trojans will have to find a way to break down the Golden Bears’ defense, which is led by seniors Indigo Gibson and Haley Lukas, who have started 16 and 15 of Cal’s games this season, respectively. The Trojans will continue to rely on senior forward Alex Anthony, who scored yet again this past weekend, netting twice against Washington, bringing her goal tally up to 7 this season. She is helped by junior forward Leah Pruitt, who also scored this past weekend, putting her name on the scoresheet in Sunday’s game against Washington State. Both will hope to continue their scoring form tomorrow as the Cal defense will not be easy to score against. Chances will be few and far between, so the Trojans’ offense will have to be on high alert and not waste any chances. This game will pit free-scoring offenses against stringent defenses, not prone to many mistakes and allowing easy goal-scoring opportunities. This game — placing USC (second in the Pac-12 standings) against Cal (tied for third in the Pac-12 standings) — will be an a great barometer for the Trojans, as they will be able to see how they compare with a Pac-12 and national powerhouse. The Trojans’ offense and defense will both have to show up ready to play and battle, knowing that this Cal team represents their greatest test yet. The offense will have to take its opportunities when given, making each chance count, while the defense will have to remain strong, not allowing the Golden Bears to attack any open spaces in the defense. If the Trojans can accomplish these tasks, a place in the top five of the national rankings is certainly achievable and will provide a confidence booster for the following two games against No. 1 Stanford and No. 6 UCLA.