It was by no means pretty, but Syracuse somehow found a way to stave off a massive comeback attempt from Buffalo to stay perfect at home and improve its overall record to 10-1. At one point the Orange led by 13 points before the Bulls mounted the come-from-behind effort to take a one-point advantage. Just from that comeback, you could tell that the game was filled with a lot of positives and certainly a whole bunch of negatives and that’s precisely the reason why this is a great time to evaluate the SU basketball stock market because Tuesday night certainly had its fair share of movers and shakers.
Let me start by saying this. The fact that Oshae Brissett was not considered a top-100 recruit coming out of high school is an absolute travesty. Game in and game out he has shown why he’s the Orange’s best freshman. He’s skilled, athletic, smart and clutch. If you name it, Brissett can probably do it on the basketball court. He flashed all of his skills on Tuesday. Finishing with a game-high 25 points, Brissett may just have topped his incredible second-half performance versus Georgetown from earlier in the week. He attacked the basket at every single opportunity and took advantage of the fact that Buffalo utilizes a guard-heavy lineup. He flashed not only strength in getting by defenders, but also finesse in making moves to get to the bucket and draw fouls. And those drawn fouls came up huge for Brissett in the game. He shot a flawless 16-16 from the free throw line (a Carrier Dome record) and that didn’t come out of luck. It came as a result of his concerted effort to take advantage of what the defense was giving him. It came as a result of his being able to step up on a night when Buffalo decided that its best course of action was to take away Tyus Battle who only scored 13 points. He also added eight boards, three assists and three steals to an already impressive night. Oshae Brissett took the game over in every facet and after putting together back-to-back monster performances his stock is sky-high.
Post Play (Moyer, Dolezaj, Chukwu)
Considering SU played a lot of the game with a three-guard lineup to contend with the guards Buffalo put on the floor, the play of SU’s big men was both efficient and impressive on Tuesday night. In the first half, it was all about Matthew Moyer. The redshirt sophomore was an absolute animal on the glass. Game in and game out he works harder than just about anybody on the floor and that’s exactly what happened on Tuesday. In the first half, he scored 10 points and grabbed eight boards in a performance that may have exceeded what he did against UCONN at MSG. Oh yeah, he also threw down one of those crowd-pleasing dunks that he likes to use. Unfortunately, he didn’t see much of the floor in the second half (we’ll get to that later). In terms of other big men who contributed to the win, Paschal Chukwu played an outstanding defensive game, blocking a career-high eight shots in the win. Meanwhile, Marek Dolezaj provided a nice little spark off the bench when Moyer was a bit banged up, scoring six points on an efficient 3-5 shooting night and also snagging four boards. If SU’s big men can continue to contribute on a consistent basis, their stock will continue to rise.
Now we told you this was a bit of an up and down game, so let’s get to some of the downs in this one. First and foremost, SU really struggled to take care of the ball in the win. The Orange turned the ball over 15 times in the game, but it felt like so much more than that. Syracuse had five turnovers in the game’s first five minutes which got them off on the wrong foot. Then in the first few minutes of the second half, they continued the sloppy effort and let Buffalo back into the game. A few more turnovers in crucial spots down the stretch helped the Bulls take the lead. Luckily for SU, Buffalo didn’t do a great job taking advantage of those opportunities. However, if Syracuse wants to be able to compete in the ACC and possibly make a run at the NCAA tournament this season, it’s going to have to take better care of the basketball and not let opposing teams get easy buckets. Otherwise, teams more talented than Buffalo will take advantage of mistakes and there may be hell to pay.
Health and Cleanliness
Outside of the turnovers, there weren’t too many statistical flaws for the team as a whole that plagued Syracuse in this one, but there is one gigantic issue staring it in the face. Every player that saw the floor on Tuesday apart from Paschal Chukwu (go figure) got banged up. Marek Dolezaj got a ball off the side of the head on a number of occasions and was icing his neck after the game. Tyus Battle collided with one of Buffalo’s guards in the second half, cutting his hand and bruising his knee, the latter of which saw him limp and limit his mobility and explosiveness for the rest of the game. Frank Howard fell so badly that he forced a stoppage in play. Oshae Brissett had ice on pretty much every part of his body in the locker room after the game. And let’s not forget about when Moyer went to go make a block and got his legs taken out from underneath him, causing him to fall on his wrist and miss the rest of the game. Also, at one point, Battle picked up his contact off the floor and put it right back into his eye which is pretty gross if you ask me. It really looked like this team was about to fall apart and it has to get healthy as ACC play approaches otherwise an already shallow roster may continue to get thin out.
Roller Coaster Stock
Out of all the ups and downs that we saw in this game, there was nothing like the roller coaster ride that Frank Howard took us on. I have legitimately never seen a player have at the same time such a good and such an atrocious game. He finished second on the team in scoring with 18 points on 55% shooting, including 75% from beyond the arc. He also made one of the most clutch and as Moyer put it, “ballsy,” three-point shots I have ever seen to give Syracuse the lead back for good. If you just look at those stats and that shot, you’d figure he had an outstanding game. But you have to look at the whole picture. He turned the ball over five times, including twice before the three he made which gave Buffalo the lead. He committed four fouls in some of the most bone-headed spots possible. He shot 3-7 from the foul line and missed his first three, including the front end of a one-and-one that could have given SU some momentum. It was honestly astonishing to watch. It was really hard to figure out whether Howard’s stock went up or down after this game so that’s why I gave him his own special category. However, if he wants to be an effective point guard on a tournament team, he’s going to need to step his game up and be far more consistent moving forward.