In a span of two weeks, Syracuse has given fans something to sweat about in the second half of games, after yesterday’s squeaker against Virginia Tech resembled a furious comeback by the Villanova Wildcats.
On December 20, the Orange was outscored 38-26 in the second half, and ultimately lost to the then-undefeated Wildcats on the road after building a 12-point lead at half. On Saturday, SU was outscored by 17 points in the second half, and barely escaped Blacksburg after making only seven shots after halftime.
The most concerning thing about both of these games is the stark contrast in success from the first half to the second. In both games, the Orange moved the ball around beautifully, racking up assists before halftime. In the first half against Villanova, the Orange had 13 assists on 17 made field goals. Yesterday, SU managed 11 assists on 16 made field goals in the first half. But, once again, the second half saw the ball movement disappear after some half time adjustments, and the team only had four in the second half.
The Orange really needs to figure out how to start replicating its scoring margin from the first half, or the team is looking at a lot of losses. Syracuse’s first half scoring margin on the season is an average of +8.5 points, while in the second half, is just +4.4. In the two games against Villanova and Virginia Tech, the Orange’s first half scoring margin was an average of +15.5, while the second half margin averaged -14.5 points. The two opponents shot a combined 51 percent in the second halves of both games.
Syracuse jumped out to a huge lead in the first half behind Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije. Cooney scored 14 points with the help of three threes, while Gbinije hit two threes. In the second half, Cooney was a cold 1-of-9. He played the entire game. Instead of feeding Rakeem Christmas on the inside when the Hokies’ big men fouled out, the Orange game plan refused to change, which helped VT claw back into it.
Essentially, Syracuse needs to find a way to continue scoring in the second half of games. Coaches that are familiar with the Orange (Jay Wright, Buzz Williams) are figuring out how to heavily out-coach Jim Boeheim in the second half of games. ACC play will only get harder from here, so its time for the coaching staff to start making adjustments. Otherwise, it will be a tough second year in the ACC for SU.
Posted: Jason Weingold