It is well-documented that this is the single worst twenty game start to a season in the Jim Boeheim era at Syracuse. It stings even more because this team was supposed to be a legitimate threat in the ACC but the same problems have plagued the Orange all season. And Tuesday seemed to be more of the same. However, through some clutch shooting from Tyler Lydon, huge free throws and a couple of stops, the Orange came out victorious.
New Faces Still Don’t “Get” the Zone
Many Syracuse fans expected there to be a bit of a bumpy period with so many new players learning a complicated defensive scheme. However, surely everyone expected the zone to be clicking by the time conference play rolled around. Well, conference play is nearly at the halfway point and several key players still don’t get it. Taurean Thompson’s offensive upside is not strong enough to outweigh the fact that he is a liability at the five and he was swiftly replaced by DaJuan Coleman on Tuesday. Andrew White III was arguably Syracuse’s best player on Tuesday, but on defense, he often gets lost. Battle is probably Syracuse’s best new face in the zone but he is nowhere near the force that Trevor Cooney or Michael Gbinije were at the top of the 2-3. John Gillon has struggled at both ends of the floor all year and Matthew Moyer and Pascal Chukwu aren’t playing this season. Oh, and the press doesn’t work either. However,
A Brutally Stagnant Offense That Needs Taurean Thompson
This relates back to the much talked about issue of poor point guard play. Whether it is Gillon or Frank Howard running the point it just seems like nothing is happening. There is no off-ball movement, very few screens and almost no penetration. The Orange, too often, pass the ball around the perimeter and chuck up a contested three-pointer. The Orange change that gameplan when Taurean Thompson is on the floor. Syracuse looks to get the ball into the paint when the big freshman is in the game. Thompson’s offense completely changed the game for the Orange in the second half. While he can be a liability on defense, Boeheim needs to resist the urge to bench him because his team needs him to score some points.
With all of that said the Orange fought tooth and nail, and hit some incredibly clutch free throws to come out victorious. The team came out of the locker room and played much better in the second half than it did in the first half, especially in the final ten minutes. Syracuse was able to overcome a somewhat slow night from Tyus Battle who went 3-9 from the field (including 0-4 from downtown) and finished the night with nine points. Tuesday was the first close game that the Orange have been in in nearly two months, since the two point loss to UConn at the Garden in early December. It was a gut check game and the Orange came out on top. That is the most important thing but the Orange will have to be better to get its first significant, signature win of the season.
Syracuse fans will take wins any way that they come the rest of the way. Syracuse has a huge chance to get a big win on Saturday when they rank the Florida State Seminoles to town.