It’s 11:47 a.m. on Saturday, February 24th, a time when most people are just finishing up brunch. But on this day, that was when Duke announced Marvin Bagley III would return against Syracuse. Bagley, the ACC’s leading scorer and rebounder, took nine shots and made eight of them, accounting for a game-high 19 points.
The biggest takeaway from this game isn’t how bad Syracuse played tonight, but rather how big of a mismatch Duke is for SU.
“We battled as well as we can against this team,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.
Syracuse’s best effort was far from good enough tonight. Center Paschal Chukwu had his hands full tonight, and according to coach Boeheim actually played pretty well. The 7-foot-2 center fouled out mid-way through the second half after picking up two fouls in the game’s first five minutes. After Chukwu left the game, it was one dunk after another for the Blue Devils.
All in all, Boeheim was rather positive about his team’s performance. Sometimes, your best effort isn’t good enough, and then other times it’s not even close to good enough.
Here’s how the Orange starters graded out in tonight’s game:
Tyus Battle – 12 points, 4/12 FG and 4 rbs: C
In games like these, Battle has to do more. Sure, he can’t be the scapegoat for every SU lost, but the Orange doesn’t have a chance if he’s not productive. If Battle had gotten rolling in the second half, it’s highly unlikely that the Orange would have lost by 16 points. The sophomore guard was just 2-8 from deep tonight, and said after the game that Duke was making it hard on them from downtown by extending its 2-3 zone. The Orange was never comfortable from three-point range, and as a result made 6 of its 25 attempts (24%).
Frank Howard – 11 points, 4/14 FG and 7 asts: C+
Howard had seven assists, no other SU player had more than two. He was making great passes all night, which somewhat made up for his disappointing performance from the field. We know this about the Orange, but Battle and Howard’s offensive efficiency is crucial. Give Duke credit, it knew that, and neutralized the two and ultimately pulled away for an easy win.
Pashal Chukwu – 6 points, 3/3 FG and 12 rbs: C
It’s easy to put the blame on Chukwu. At times, it feels like the guy couldn’t catch a cold. However, when you sit back and think about the type of players he was dealing with tonight, you might realize his effort wasn’t terrible. Facing guys that out class him by a million miles, Chukwu gathered 12 boards. That’s something to write home about. All things considered, he was a big reason why the Orange was in the game for much of the second half. Boheim could have ripped him postgame, but he didn’t. Instead, he applauded his play.
Marek Dolezaj – 4 points, 2/6 FG and 3 rbs: D+
Not good enough. Dolezaj found the right spots on the floor several times, but couldn’t help his team where it needed him most: on the boards. Dolezaj doesn’t have the frame to compete with guys like Bagley and Carter, which was more than apparent tonight. Like Chukwu, Dolezaj had his hands full. He was never able to make his mark on this game, but no other Syracuse player was able to either.
Oshae Brissett – 6 points, 2-13 FG and 2 rbs: D
The guy that’s been there for the Orange all year wasn’t tonight. Brissett hadn’t scored single digits in a game since February 3rd against Virginia. After the game, Brissett expressed his desire to improve his shot selection.
“I want to focus on picking and choosing my spots,” Brissett said.
It was clear the Ontario native was far from happy with his play. The lone bright spot for Brissett was making two of the teams six three-point field goals.
Nothing worked for the Syracuse starting five tonight. In the first half, it looked like Moyer was going to provide a spark off the becnh, going two-for-four from the field to go along with a spectacular rejection of Bagley at the rim in his seven minutes of action. Then, Moyer struggled when he was inserted into the second half more than nine minutes in. In one sequence, the redshirt-freshman was dunked on at one end and then traveled at the other.
All and all, it’s pretty clear why the Orange lost this game: no player stepped up. Usually at least one guy stuffs the stat sheet, but tonight the most impressive thing you can find in the box score is 12 rebounds for Chukwu. Brissett, Battle and Howard all had off games, resulting in a sloppy offensive performance from Syracuse.
In terms of the NCAA tournament, this game probably won’t have too much of an impact. With just two games to go, all eyes are on the Orange’s performance against Boston College on Wednesday and Clemson on Saturday. Four straight losses to close the year would almost guarantee Syracuse a spot in the NIT for the second straight season.
My guess is that SU loses on Wednesday in Boston College and then follows that up with a win over Clemson on senior day in the Carrier Dome. That, combined with SU’s first ever ACC tournament win, likely means the Orange makes the big dance. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess as to what happens next month.
For coverage of all those games, make sure to keep it locked here at Orangefizz.net and Orange Fizz on twitter. Take a deep breath Syracuse fans, the team is doing what it can. The bottom line is that the talent needed to consistently win games in the NCAA’s toughest conference simply is not on SU’s roster.