There’s really no word more fitting than “disappointing” to describe this one, after Syracuse came up short to Old Dominion 68-62 on Saturday.
ODU was in it throughout, yet it seemed that the common belief inside the Carrier Dome was that the Orange would eventually pull away. That certainly looked to be the case when Syracuse closed the first half on a quick 10-2 run to go up 33-23.
Instead, the Orange walked out the tunnel and came out flat for the second half, getting outscored 45-29 by the Monarchs.
Syracuse did a number of things wrong to have this happen.
For one, as Jim Boeheim discussed before touching on any other subject after the loss, the play at the center position is simply not cutting it.
“We’re completely overmatched at the center spot no matter who’s in there,” said Boeheim.
It wouldn’t be crazy to say Boeheim might be onto something there. I mean, let’s look at the production from Syracuse big-men today:
Paschal Chuwku, Bourama Sidibe and Marek Dolezaj all played in the middle today… the three of them combined for 2 points total.
Dolezaj was thrusted into the center spot for a bit with Chukwu battling foul trouble. It’s not his usual positon, but Dolezaj arguably played better there than the other two did, and that’s concerning.
He was the only one of the three players to score, and even outrebounded Chukwu, the tallest player in program history, in just two more minutes played.
All in all, as Boehiem acknowledged, it didn’t matter who was playing center today. Whether it was Chukwu (1 FG attempt), Sidibe (0 FG attempts), or Dolezaj (2 FG attempts), the center spot seemed completely absent from Syracuse offense.
Defensively, Chukwu committed a few senseless fouls, including one on a three-point attempt by B.J. Stith with SU up 2 late in the second half. Chukwu also struggled with holding ODU off the offensive glass in the middle.
What else went wrong for the Orange against the Monarchs? How about free throw shooting.
Another thing Boeheim acknowledged post-game was the 12 free throws Syracuse missed Saturday afternoon.
Syracuse was bailed out by Old Dominion at the line today. They just didn’t respond by making their own free throws.
Victorious by just 6, the Monarchs shot 65 percent on free throws, but the Orange answered with a 22-34 showing (64.7%). This is frustrating because the Orange shot 14 more free throws than ODU… they just weren’t making them, and if it did, it may have won this game.
Lastly, a recurring theme throughout this one was missed shots. Syracuse lost this game after a poor offensive showing, but Old Dominion wasn’t necessarily letting it fly either.
The Monarchs finished strong, but like the Orange, struggled to convert its looks. Five straight points from ODU’s Xavier Green down the stretch was perhaps the main late-game turning point, but Syracuse could have avoided being in that situation in the first place.
The sophomore gave the Monarchs a lead they wouldn’t relinquish with under 3 minutes left, but the game was only as close as it was because of poor Syracuse shooting.
“We’re not making anything,” said Boeheim after the game, in vintage Boeheim fashion.
The Orange seemed to run plenty of its typical isolation offense against the Monarchs today, obviously with Battle at the forefront. In turn, there wasn’t much off-ball movement, which isn’t a new issue for SU.
Boeheim even said it himself post-game that “Tyus can’t do it all by himself,” adding that Syracuse needs to “get him some help.”
Well, Jim may be right about that, but that doesn’t mean there’s no capable help already on the roster.
Syracuse is a talented team. They just don’t move the ball enough at certain points, as shown this afternoon. Perhaps more ball movement would yield better chances and ultimately more points, but that will be hard to do if the centers don’t start playing better.
Saturday’s loss leaves behind a great deal of concern for Orange faithful, and SU’s first chance to bounce back won’t be an easy one. Syracuse sees No. 14 Buffalo on Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m.