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Syracuse’s Tale of Two Halves

In the past four games, Syracuse has taken on three top-10 opponents. Now, all three of those teams reside in the top-5. But in all three games, SU went into halftime with a lead.

Against Duke, Syracuse exited the floor to a roar of applause with a 34-29 lead after 20 minutes of play. The Orange then went on to lose 75-65 as RJ Barrett exploded for 30 points. But SU expected RJ Barrett to get buckets. The Orange didn’t anticipate Alex O’Connell, who averages less than five points per game, to explode for 17 points in the second half, on his way to a career high, 20 point performance.

The problem for Syracuse in all three games is a let-down in three point defense in the second half. Maybe it’s because SU gets too comfortable, or maybe it’s because the team simply wears down, and doesn’t have the depth to compete with the perennial ACC powerhouses up and down the court for 40 minutes. Of course, a weakness of the 2-3 zone is a hot three-point shooting team.

UNC made less than 25 percent of its attempts from deep in the first half. As a result, the Orange went into halftime up 46-43. But in the second half, the Tar Heels hit almost 36 percent from three. Of course it helps to go 34-37 from the free throw line, but at the end of the day, SU couldn’t keep up with guard Coby White. Just like O’Connell, he got hot from three in the second half as he hit 4-6 from deep on his march towards 34 points.

Then UVA followed a similar strategy of chucking up threes to take down the Orange, as the Hooz hit 72 percent from deep. When a team has guys hitting threes from 30 feet out like UVA had in Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy, it’s almost impossible to beat them. Especially when playing a 2-3 zone. Syracuse can’t extend the zone out five feet past the three point line, especially when UVA has players like Deandre Hunter who love to exploit the middle of the zone.

So unlike the UNC and Duke games, where SU simply gave up open shots, Virginia couldn’t miss on Monday. That’s purely an anomaly of a game that will almost never happen again. But there is a clear, concerning trend that Syracuse tends to wear down in the second half. Against Virginia, there’s nothing the Orange could do to stop the onslaught. But the other two games should be concerning.

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