As previously discussed, the 2013-2014 Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team was weakened by its lack of a pure shooter. CJ Fair had to be on top of his game and spread the ball to give the Orange an opportunity to win, and Trevor Cooney had to hit some shots to keep the Orange in the game and spark its offense.
In the Orange’s first NCAA Tournament game against Western Michigan, fans got a glimpse of the team that won 25 games in a row to start the season. Fair shot relatively well, hitting 6-of-13 shots from the field to contribute 14 points. Cooney shot well, hitting 4-of-8 three pointers to lead the team with 18 points. Ennis was also smooth from the floor, hitting 7-of-11 shots. The team hit nearly 50 percent of its attempts; a very high number for this team and its confidence was reflected in its defense. The Orange finished the game with 77 points and a 24-point victory in its opening game.
Everything that the Orange did right in their first game, however, was its downfall in the third round (second game) contest against the Dayton Flyers. The problems, of course, started with Fair’s inconsistency. He was 4-for-14 from the field and turned the ball over three times. Cooney was equally horrendous, finishing 1-for-6 with no three pointers.
In fact, the Orange didn’t make a three-pointer as a team. It was the first time in 665 games that the Orange didn’t hit a shot from behind the arc. And when the Orange doesn’t connect from behind the arc, it becomes harder and harder for it to score in general. Syracuse only scored 18 points in the first half.
Not only did Syracuse not score from behind the arc, but they also were only 1-for-19 from outside the paint. Ennis, alone, was 0-for-8 from outside of the key. Dayton, on the other hand, was 10-for-21 from outside of the paint, including seven three pointers.
Syracuse certainly had won games in which they had shot poorly from outside the paint, but the difference was the lack of transition game. Despite forcing 14 Dayton turnovers, the Orange only managed six points off of turnovers. Syracuse averaged 16.5 points off of turnovers per game during the season. The team wasn’t able to run in the open floor, and it wasn’t hitting jump shots, which left only the paint – a one-dimensional attack.
Syracuse enters the offseason with a lot of question marks. They have two top recruits coming in and have two seniors graduating. They have two more players who are considered on the fence for leaving for the NBA Draft. One thing is certain, however: the Orange needs to find some shooters to work into the rotation next season if they want to correct their mistakes from this one.
Posted by: Jason Weingold