By now it’s clear that Elijah Hughes has become the third head of the three headed monster, taking the place of Frank Howard. Of course, Howard could still return to the level of play shown last year, but that hasn’t happened yet. However, with the emergence of Hughes, Syracuse no longer needs to run an isolation ball offense.
Last year, Syracuse had three offensive weapons in Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett, and Howard. Seemingly nobody else had any idea how to put the ball through the hoop. The Orange also lacked a three point threat as Brissett had the highest shooting percentage of the trio at 33.1 percent from deep. As a result, defenses could clog lanes by clustering all five defenders inside the three point line.
This year’s a different story as Hughes is nailing almost 37 percent of shots from deep. That range allows for more openings for Battle and Brissett to attack the rim. Both have seen their field goal percentages rise greatly even though they’re shooting worse from three than a year ago. With the extra space, Syracuse no longer has to rely on its scorers creating for themselves. Instead of standing around waiting for Battle or Brissett to find a way to the hoop, SU can find open looks due to its three point threat.
Hughes isn’t afraid to chuck up lots of shots from three either. So far he’s averaging seven three point attempts a game. If he gets a little bit of space, he’ll let it fly and he’s not just shooting with his toe behind the line. He’s shown his willingness to throw it up five feet deep from three. That range and confidence forces defenders to guard him close to the midcourt logo.
What’s even scarier for opponents is that Hughes is improving. Earlier in the year he was trying to find his role among SU’s scorers, but he’s scored at least 15 points in the past seven games. In his first ACC game, Hughes notched a career high with 22 points. Of course, players can score all they want but if they aren’t efficient in their shot selection, they could ultimately harm their team. Earlier this year Hughes was inconsistent from game to game, but he has shot over 50 percent in the last three contests.
After a poor non-conference showing, it seems like Syracuse is back on track. The squad has a couple of games against Clemson and Georgia Tech to build momentum before a showdown on the road against top ranked Duke.