Syracuse’s offense got off to a brutal start against Louisville on Monday, failing to score a single point before the first media timeout. The problems with the offense were not new. The Orange were stagnant, with very little off-ball movement and seemingly just passed the ball around the three point line, only to settle for a mediocre three point attempt. Things started to come together when the Orange decided to drive towards the basket.
There are several reasons that getting the ball into the paint has benefited and will continue to benefit the Orange. Driving the basket gives the team two options. Take the ball to the rim, or drive and force the defense to collapse in and push the ball out to one of your strong three point shooters. The Orange also have the (possibly surprising) added benefit of being a strong free-throw shooting team.
When one of Syracuse’s players takes the ball to the rim they have to ways to score. They can lay the ball in or draw a foul. The Orange are near the top of the ACC in free throw percentage and, with the exception of Tyler Roberson, there is no player that Syracuse fans should dread going to the line. In fact, Syracuse’s free throw shooting has kept them in games and sealed victories in the recent past. Tyler Lydon, at one time, hit 33 straight free throws and John Gillon has hit a school record 36 straight which sealed a win over Florida State and lead the comeback against N.C. State.
Syracuse also has several players who can hit three pointers at a high percentage when they get an open look. As good of a shooter as Andrew White III is, he is not going to knock down shots when he has hands in his face. When Gillon or Lydon drive to the hoop, they draw attention away from the perimeter and players like White and Battle will get more open looks from beyond the arc. White struggled against Louisville on both open looks and contested shots but everyone has an off day. They need to keep feeding their shooters. Oh yeah, and the more touches that Tyler Lydon gets, the better.