What started as a promising offensive showing nearly turned into a total disappointment. Syracuse dropped a second straight, this time to Virginia Tech 67-63. The silver lining for the Orange was defense. SU held the Hokies to 27.8% from behind the arc. After giving up 88 points to Notre Dame just a few days ago, that’s one thing Orange fans can hang their hats on. It seems that this team has the pieces to string wins together, it just never fires on all cylinders. When the offense plays well, the defense struggles and when the offense can’t get it going the defense does its job. Last time out against the Fighting Irish, both Joe Girard and Buddy Boeheim eclipsed 20 points, tonight, against a small team without an exceptional defense they combined for just 24. As a team, the Orange shot just 43.4% from the field.
Elijah Hughes, this team’s go-to scorer, shot just 6-16 (37.5%). In most games the Orange lost this season, Hughes has struggled. In the season opener against Virginia, he put just 14 points, against Penn State and Notre Dame he only mustered 19 and against Iowa, the redshirt Junior had 10. In three of SU’s losses this year, Hughes has shot under 30% from the field.
It all changed at the half for the SU offense. Going into the break, the Orange were shooting 52% from the floor and 57% from three. When they came out in the second half, it’s as if they left the basketballs in the locker room and replaced them with bricks. Those numbers from the first half dipped to 36.7% and 20%. The key seems to be consistency for Syracuse. If the team can play hard for both halves it can pull out a win, if not we see something similar to tonight’s performance.
Now 1-3 in the conference the team has some questions that need answering.
The first and most important, how many games can this team win? If asked at the beginning of the season many fans would have said 19 or somewhere around that number, it looked as if a young squad of shooters led by a great scorer had the makings to limp into the tourney. Now it seems unlikely they’ll be able to finish at .500. Underwhelming play at all the most important places provides little hope for the rest of the year.
Secondarily, what can Orange fans make of this year’s freshman class? The two most notable of the bunch, Joe Girard and Quincy Gurrier get decent minutes and both have flashes of potential. It’s guys like Jesse Edwards and Brycen Goodine still haven’t proved themselves on the court. Edwards when on the court has showcased skill on both sides of the ball, but his problem is lack of playing time. It’s worrisome that Edwards doesn’t get the same treatment that the first two mentioned do, he averages only 7.3 minutes per game compared to the 30.9 and 17.2 Girard and Gurrier receive. Edwards is a talented player and a definite replacement for Bourama Sidibe if he gets the opportunity to develop. On the other hand, Brycen Goodine, the highest-rated recruit (77th on ESPN 100) SU pulled has been pretty disappointing when on the floor. Averaging 11.3 minutes, Goodine has been everything but impressive. The Massachusetts native is shooting just 24% from the field without having made a single shot from behind the arc.
Consistency is key for SU down the stretch. If the team can find 20+ points a night from one of the stars and consistent shooting from the supporting cast, it has a chance, but if not things don’t look great for the Orange.