It’s not time to hit the panic button yet for Syracuse fans, but it’s getting dangerously close. SU dropped its second straight game in a matter of 48 hours on Monday, matching Saturday’s excruciating lose to the Hoyas with an ugly second half collapse against Marquette, 74-71. The Orange hasn’t been able to close out a competitive game down the stretch in over a month, and it’s offensive game continues to look stale.
Here’s the Fizz Five, top takeaways from SU’s loss to the Golden Eagles.
- Free Throws
Something has to click. Two straight games Syracuse let leads slip away in the second half, and could not get to free throw line. They took just 12 against the Hoyas and 7 against Marquette. What’s worse is that SU didn’t even attempt to work the ball into the paint in the second half Monday. Jim Boeheim’s crew took a microscopic two free throws in the second half. Compare that to the 28 Marquette took. The Golden Eagles drained 29 throughout the night compared to just five for Syracuse. Marquette had a +24 discrepancy at the line. No team will win with that disparity. The Orange settled for jump shots once again, but can not continue to be content to let shots fly from deep.
- We Need More CJ
The lack of creativity on the offensive end means CJ Fair needs to get more touches. As effective as he’s been this season, he does not get the ball in the paint as frequently as he should. He was 8-11 from the field tonight, but conspicuously disappeared in the second half when the game mattered. If you take away his garbage bucket with ten seconds left, Fair didn’t score in the final 13 minutes of the game. Good things happen when he touches the rock, whether it’s driving to the rim or dishing off to the open man. We all know he has a passive personality, but he needs to be more aggressive demanding the ball at the free throw line.
- Big Bodies Underneath, Big Problems for SU
SU’s frontline without DeJuan Coleman is tall, lanky and athletic. That’s pretty obvious. But throw an absolute tank in the middle of that zone – aka Devante Gardner – and the Orange has all sorts of problems. Keita, Christmas and Southerland tend to lose some of the flashers on the baseline when they play together, and were straight up pushed around against Marquette’s 6’8” 290 lb. junior down low. It’s been tough for the SU bigs to guard against a true post-up player, and if they face someone as dominant as Gardner again in March, it’ll be big trouble. Sometimes the size advantage just isn’t fair, but that’s why locating the forward underneath and putting emphasis on boxing out is so critical.
- Frantic Backcourt
The pace of the game in the last ten minutes for SU was out of control. Some of that has to do with Michael Carter-Williams, but not all. Brandon Triche took a few forced shots in the second half (he hit just one jumper after halftime) and so did Southerland. SU tried to speed up the game down the stretch as its lead dissipated. It was almost as if Carter-Williams would try to run a transition game off of inbounds passes. It can’t work. The pace became too chaotic, and it played right into Marquette’s favor.
- Is This Team Clutch?
Jim Boeheim said after SU’s win against Cincinnati a month ago his squad had no business winning that game or the Louisville matchup beforehand. Since then, SU is 0-5 in games that were competitive down the stretch. The Orange couldn’t handle the slow game plans in the second halves against Georgetown and UConn, and blew late leads against Villanova and Marquette. This comes down to establishing a consistent scorer in the clutch. Triche has flashed signs of this ability throughout the Big East schedule, but not during this recent rough stretch.
Posted: Kevin Fitzgerald