Saturday was overwhelming for more reasons than you can count on one hand. That was before the game was even played. Through all the noise, there was 40 minutes of basketball that said a lot about Syracuse in its loss against Duke.
Moment(s) Were Not Too Big
For the most part, it felt like Syracuse put the distractions of the week to the side. From questions looming over Jim Boeheim’s potential absence, to Zion Williamson being sidelined, to the numerous stars and numerous fans in attendance for the game, the Orange could have had a lot of reasons for butterflies. But Syracuse responded to the challenge in the first half by entering the locker rooms with a five point lead. That shows that distractions were put to the side. The only problem was that Duke’s talent took over. R.J. Barrett proved why he was the top prospect in the county with his 30 point performance. Talent crushed Syracuse in the second half, not the pressure.
When the Orange needed it most, the clutch bucket never came. Syracuse had a 4:57 stretch in the second half without scoring. While Duke didn’t score much during that stretch either, it was enough time for the Blue Devils to pull ahead by six. Along with this, Duke did all it could to let SU back into the game in the late stages. When the Orange dialed up the press, it forced turnovers and quick, bad shots by Duke. But Syracuse couldn’t get buckets on the other side and looked lost whenever the ball ended up back in their hands as a result of a Duke miscue. It also didn’t help that the Orange missed four straight free throws during a stretch in the final two minutes. That’s not a recipe for a comeback, and it certainly won’t help the Orange try to preserve a lead in the future.
Just Like Old Times
The Orange was lauded for its depth this season. Despite this, it feels like we’re back at square one. Syracuse only played seven guys for essentially the second game in a row (four walk-ons and Robert Braswell played the final minute against Louisville). This isn’t a knock, just an observation. Jalen Carey hasn’t protected the ball enough to warrant more playing time (1.8 turnovers per game in 13.5 minutes per game) and Bourama Sidibe has more fouls than points this season. Recency bias would tell you that Braswell has done more recently to warrant playing time with his three steals against NC State. The Orange is back to minimal bench bodies, which has shown success in recent memory.